The Thankless Stranger
Die undankbare Fremde

irena brezna die undankbare fremde
Galiani Berlin
March 2012 / 180pp

This book is outside of the five-year window for guaranteed assistance with English language translation. We suggest getting in touch with the relevant funding body for an informal conversation about the possibility of support. Please refer to to our  recommendations page for books that are currently covered by our funding guarantee.


The Thankless Stranger is an account of the immigrant experience, fuelled by autobiography, which succeeds in conveying a real sense of intimacy and authenticity regarding the immigrant experience.

The main storyline charts the struggle to come to terms with an alien culture – a situation which is compared to being a young, passionate woman forced to endure an imposed marriage with a stern and much older man. However, as the narrator matures, she has a growing awareness of those aspects of her new homeland which are positive. Interwoven with the main narrative are a series of ‘mini-dramas’ arising from the narrator’s experiences as an interpreter mediating between immigrants, medical and legal authorities, and social workers. These often very moving episodes highlight the tragedy and vulnerability of those who flee impossible conditions at home and hope, often against overwhelming odds, to make something of their lives in a new country.

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.

about the author

Irena Brežná was born in Czechoslovakia in 1950 and emigrated to Switzerland in 1968. She works as a court interpreter, as a war correspondent (Chechnya) and as a humanitarian helper for the Red Cross. She has been awarded multiple literary and media prizes for her autobiographically inspired novels and war reportage, such as the Theodor-Wolff Prize and the EMMA Journalist Prize.

Previous works include:
Die beste aller Welten (‘The Best of All Worlds’, 2008)

rights information

Translation rights sold to:
Slovakia (Aspekt)

Translation rights available from:
Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch GmbH & Co. KG
Bahnhofsvorplatz 1
50667 Köln
Tel: +49 221 376 85 22
Contact person: Iris Brandt 

Kiepenheuer & Witsch was founded in 1949 in Cologne by Gustav Kiepenheuer and Joseph Caspar Witsch. The press’s early authors included Joseph Roth, Heinrich Böll and Erich Maria Remarque. Today Kiepenheuer & Witsch continues to publish leading contemporary German, Austrian and Swiss writers, as well as international authors in translation. Its list includes among many others the book prize winner Kathrin Schmidt, Frank Schätzing, Uwe Timm, David Foster Wallace and J.D. Salinger. Its non-fiction subjects cover sociology, psychology, history and biography.

translation assistance

Pro Helvetia covers up to 100% of the effective translation costs for literary works by Swiss authors.

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