Olga Grjasnowa [ Germany ]
Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt, 2012
Die juristische Unschärfe einer Ehe, 2014
Olga Grjasnowa was born in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1984. At the age of eleven, she moved with her parents to Germany. In 2005, she began studies in art history and Slavic studies in Göttingen, then moved on to the Institute for German Literature in Leipzig.
Her much praised debut novel »Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt« (2012; Eng. »All Russians Love Birch Trees«, 2014) focuses on the life of a young girl from Azerbaijan named Mascha who, like the author, comes to Germany with her family as a so-called “quota refugee”. Although initially confronted with her own inability to express herself as well as with being discriminated against by her fellow human beings, Mascha is ambitious and learns German quickly. She also learns four other languages, completes several internships and pursues a career at the United Nations. She has no time for relationships, that is, until she meets Elias. The author weaves a tragic love story that takes them directly to Israel, and she uses a mixture of comedy, dark humor and tragic elements to portray German society as one shaped by resentment and fear of all that is foreign. Grjasnowa maintains a brisk narrative pace at all times and is stylistically »vibrant and graceful, with plenty of sharp dialogue« (»Süddeutsche Zeitung«). »Zeit« Magazine argued that »Grjasnowa captures ad hoc the spirit of her generation. It has been a long time since a German-language debut novel has been as opinionated and alert to its times as this.« The novel received the Klaus Michael Kühne Prize, the Anna Seghers Prize and a nomination for the German Book Award. It was also adapted for the theater. Grjasnowa, who works meticulously and performs elaborate research on the subjects contained in her work, received the Robert Bosch Stiftung’s Cross-Border Scholarship. In 2014, she published her second novel, »Die juristische Unschärfe einer Ehe« (tr. The legal vagueness of a marriage). Here, too, a young woman is at the center of the story; Leyla from Azerbaijan is a dancer at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater. She is married to the psychiatrist Altay, but it is much more than a marriage of convenience; it serves to hide their homosexuality while in Russia. After a terrible fall, Leyla’s career comes to an abrupt end and they leave for Berlin, where she works feverishly on her comeback. Altay takes a job as an assistant doctor in a hospital in Berlin-Wedding. When Leyla meets a female journalist from the USA named Jonoun, the result is a love triangle laden with conflict. After a series of imbroglios, the three find themselves back in Baku, and a fast-paced road movie through the Caucasus unfolds. In 2015, the author received the Adelbert von Chamisso Promotional Prize for her work. The jury noted: »The laconic, cool tone of her work is filled with a captivating and a completely independent imaginative spirit«.
Olga Grjasnowa lives in Berlin.