BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Beside Myself by Sasha Marianna Salzmann, translated by Imogen Taylor [in Library Journal]

Be forewarned: identity, nationality, and gender are all fluid here – histories intertwine and conflict, narrators change and prove unreliable, and pronouns are a challenge throughout. “I don’t know where we’re going,” the first sentence reveals, setting up a story already fully in motion. Ali and Anton are twins, each thrice removed from any semblance of “home.” Born in Moscow and raised as Jewish refugees in Berlin, the pair have always had each other – until they don’t.

Anton goes missing, only signaling he’s still alive with a virtually empty postcard sent from Istanbul. Ali follows in desperate pursuit, finding temporary refuge with an inherited Turkish uncle who isn’t actually related. For the first time, the twins are living separate lives: Anton runs, Ali searches, and both are on the verge of life-altering revelations. Dovetailed into their odyssey are three peripatetic generations of progenitors – mismatched, revolutionary, dysfunctional, heroic, lost.

Already a celebrated playwright, the Russian-born, Berlin-based Sasha Marianna Salzmann makes their fiction debut, laudably Anglophone-enabled by Oxford-trained, Berlin-based academic/translator Imogen Taylor, whose task required proficiency in Turkish and Russian beyond German fluency.

Verdict: Shortlisted for the 2017 German Book Prize, Salzmann’s multilayered first novel should find resonance with cosmopolitan Stateside audiences, most especially with internationally savvy LGBTQIA readers.

Review: “Fiction,” Library Journal, January 1, 2020

Readers: Adult

Published: 2020


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