Goethe Book Club Goethe Book Club Goes Digital: All Russians Love Birch Trees / Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt, by Olga Grjasnowa (2012 / 2014)

Grjasnowa Book Club 2021 © Other Press

Tue, 03/16/2021


A virtual book club discussion of All Russians Love Birch Trees Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt (2012) by Olga Grjasnowa, translated into English by Eva Bacon in 2014

Read and discuss works by contemporary German authors in this series hosted by the Goethe-Institut. All books can be read in recent English translation or in the German original; our discussion will be in English. Led by local German professor Amanda Sheffer (The Catholic University of America), this book club focuses on contemporary fiction and will explore experiences and thoughts about the text.

In cooperation with the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the Catholic University of America.

Please Note: In order to participate in the online discussion (carried out over Zoom), registrants must obtain access to the novel on their own. Hard copies of the novel can be ordered through multiple vendors online; the eBook is also available for download to Kindle, iPad, and other digital reading platforms.

All Russians Love Birch Trees (German title: Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt) by Olga Grjasnowa (2012) English translation by Eva Bacon published 2014

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.

Author Olga Grjasnowa has a gift for seeing the funny side of even the most tragic situations. 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 bittersweet quality to her adventures.

All Russians Love Birch Trees by Olga Grjasnowa is an astounding debut novel, both political and personal, sexual and full of grief. It captures beautifully and viscerally what it’s like to lose your home due to traumatic events, what it’s like to be neither a tourist nor a native no matter where you go looking for what’s missing in you. To paraphrase Yevtushenko’s famous line — borders are scars on the face of the planet. This book proves it, and how.” –Ismet Prcic, author of Shards, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year

“Grjasnowa, who was longlisted for the 2012 German Book Prize, reveals herself to be an expert chronicler of modern displacement and of the scars left by the wars that followed the Soviet Union’s break-up–wars that most in the West managed to overlook or forget.”–Publishers Weekly

“A thoughtful, melancholy study of loss.” –Kirkus

“Here the world comes to you, as it never has appeared to you in a novel. With power, with wit, with wisdom and clarity, with subtlety and grief.” –Elmar Krekeler, Die Welt

Source: Other Press

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.

Other Press
RSVP Discussion of the novel will take place via Zoom on Tuesday, March 16, at 6:30 pm Eastern. Please RSVP via Eventbrite in order to receive discussion prompts and the Zoom invite link. Discussion prompts from moderator Dr. Amanda Sheffer will be emailed to all participants RSVP'd via Eventbrite in advance of the discussion. The Zoom invite and additional directions/tips for accessing the Zoom discussion will be emailed to all participants no less than 48 hours before the discussion begins. The discussion will take place in English.