Young Swiss writer Dorothee Elmiger is a shining star of the international literary scene. Her first novel won multiple awards and is already available in English translation.
Sleepwalkers is unusual in its approach, reading more as a collage of voices; narratives interweaving, interrupting and overlapping one another. Quite what is being discussed is at times oblique, but seems to have an underlying political urgency and circles around themes of borders and frontiers: stories of immigrants and of those trying to cross borders illegally, human rights and the market value of human beings.
Sleep and sleeplessness are leitmotifs. Two words important to the narrative are ambiguous: Schlafgänger means ‘sleepwalker,’ but also refers to the large numbers swarming to urban centres in search of work and an escape from poverty in the nineteenth century; and Grenzgänger indicates both ghostly figures who ‘reside’ close to borders, hoping to find a way across, and those who legally cross to their home or workplace.
Disturbing, bewildering, and with a soundscape that has a poetic beat that buzzes in the head, this highly unusual short work is a courageous contribution to the immigration debate and a striking work of literary fiction.
All recommendations from Autumn 2014