Nominated by:

Stadtbibliothek Bremen, Germany

Stadtbüchereien Düsseldorf, Germany

Publisher of nominated edition:

Other Press, USA

All Russians Love Birch Trees

Olga Grjasnowa      

Translated from the German by Eva Bacon

2016 Longlist

Set in Frankfurt, All Russians Love Birch Trees follows a young immigrant named Masha. Fluent in five languages and able to get by in several others, Masha lives with her boyfriend, Elias. Her best friends are Muslims struggling to obtain residence permits, and her parents rarely leave the house except to compare gas prices. Masha has nearly completed her studies to become an interpreter, when suddenly Elias is hospitalized after a serious soccer injury and dies, forcing her to question a past that has haunted her for years. Olga Grjasnowa has a unique gift for seeing the funny side of even the most tragic situations. With cool irony, her debut novel tells the story of a headstrong young woman for whom the issue of origin and nationality is immaterial—her Jewish background has taught her she can survive anywhere. Yet Masha isn’t equipped to deal with grief, and this all-too-normal shortcoming gives a particularly bittersweet quality to her adventures.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Olga Grjasnowa was born in 1984 in Baku, Azerbaijan, grew up in the Caucasus, and has spent extended periods in Poland, Russia, and Israel. She moved to Germany at the age of twelve and is a graduate of the German institute for Literature/Creative Writing in Leipzig. In 2010 she was awarded the Dramatist Prize of the Wiener Wortstätten for her debut play, Mitfühlende Deutsche (Compassionate Germans). She is currently studying dance science at the Berlin Free University. All Russians Love Birch Trees is her first novel.

Librarian’s Comments

Masha, the main character, is young and headstrong, she is Azerbaijani, Jewish, and if necessary, a Turkish or a French woman. As an immigrant, she had the early experience of speechlessness in Germany. Now she speaks five languages fluently. She is planning her career at the UN, as her friend Elias falls seriously ill. She flees to Israel and her own past finally catches up with her. Olga Grjasnowa tells the story of a generation that knows no boundaries, but also has no home – written in perfect balance between tragedy and comedy.

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