The Thankless Foreigner
A novel that offers a timely and important reflection on experiences of immigration and the search for dignity between integration and resistance.
In the late 1960s, during the Cold War, a young woman flees from a communist country and arrives in the West. Her new environs seem overly rigid and aloof, and she rebels against this host country that insists on her following its rules, that won’t let her be herself. As an interpreter for refugees and migrants, she meets many others who have ended up here—petty criminals, hustlers, victims of exploitation, sufferers of depression—people who share a hope that they can make a fresh start in a new country. Gradually she learns to experience the richness of the foreign, to broaden her mental horizons and ways of thinking and thus build bridges between cultures. A brilliantly written novel about the search for dignity between integration and resistance, Irena Brežná’s The Thankless Foreigner offers profound and timely reflections on the experience of immigration.
Praise for the German original:
‘Exile as a paradoxical metaphor, viewed as though through a magnifying glass: deadly serious, profoundly piercing and moving.’—The jury of the Swiss Literature Prize
‘This is a brilliantly written story of the search for identity between assimilation and resistance. No immigrant arriving in these parts has ever before given such an unsparing, furious and insightful account of her life in a foreign place. This is a woman who refuses to be thankful for the right of residence, who demands to be recognized and heard in all her foreignness. She shows us that coexistence is possible only if both parties, the locals as well as the immigrants, emerge from behind their protective armour: the best kind of immigrant one could hope for.’—Die Zeit
‘Brežná’s fluid writing style has a lyricism and lightness of touch which communicate her amusement and bemusement at the collective behavioural traits of the native people in her host country of Switzerland. And her moving depiction of the plight of other immigrants ensures that the serious underlying issues concerning poverty, exploitation and political persecution are not underplayed.’—New Books in German
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