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Balsam Karam

The Singularity

A mother is searching for her child, walking the streets calling her name. She is searching along the corniche where her daughter used to work. She keeps searching until she loses her mind, frantic with grief, forgetting her other children. What kind of mother could keep on living after the disappearance of her child?

A woman is on vacation, with a baby growing inside her belly, when she sees someone falling off the corniche. Later she will have to give birth to her stillborn child, refusing for as long as possible, imagining that as long as the baby is still inside her, it cannot be entirely lost.

The woman who has lost her baby is thinking about her own mother, remembering how she had once arrived at the parent-teacher meeting wearing the most precious piece of clothing she owned: a black-and-white rabbit fur she had received as a gift. Some of the older kids had pointed at her and laughed. Later, on their way home, she had walked far ahead of her mother. She remembers her mother’s losses: the loss of a language, a country, an identity. Is it possible to create a hierarchy of trauma?

Balsam Karam’s new novel The Singularity is an emotionally powerful and political work of grief, and can be read in adjunction with her radiant debut novel Event Horizon, if you so wish.

“I don’t know anyone who writes like Balsam Karam. She blows me away. Truly one of the most original and extraordinary voices to come out of Scandinavia in… forever. You’ll realize twenty minutes after you’ve finished The Singularity that you’re still sitting there, holding on to it.”
—Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove

“Balsam Karam writes at the limits of narrative, limning the boundary of loss where ‘no space remains between bodies in the singularity.’ With a lucid intimacy, Karam braids a story of witness and motherhood that fractures from within only to rebuild memory and home on its own terms. The Singularity is a book of conviction, where those who have been made to disappear find light and keep their secrets too.”
—Shazia Hafiz Ramji, author of Port of Being

“Lyrical, devastating, and completely original, The Singularity is a work of extraordinary vision and heart. Balsam Karam’s writing is formally inventive and stylistically breathtaking, and Saskia Vogel’s translation does shining justice to its poetic precision and depths.”
—Preti Taneja, author of Aftermath

The Singularity by Balsam Karam is a novel about loss and longing—a mother who misses her child, children who miss their mother, and all of those who miss their country as they try to feel the new earth in their new land. A deeply moving work of fiction from a true voice of Scandinavia.”
—Shahrnush Parsipur, author of Women Without Men

“Astringent, fuguelike. . . . A knotty, sui generis evocation of mothers’ feelings of fear and loss.”
—Kirkus Reviews

SHORTLISTED FOR THE AUGUST PRIZE 2021

SHORTLISTED FOR SVENSKA DAGBLADET’S LITERATURE PRIZE 2021

SHORTLISTED FOR THE EUROPEAN UNION PRIZE FOR LITERATURE 2021

Balsam

About the author

Karam

Balsam Karam, b. 1983, is of Kurdish ancestry and has lived in Sweden since she was a child. She is an author and librarian and made her literary debut in 2018 with the critically acclaimed Event Horizon, which attracted a lot of attention and was later shortlisted for the Katapult Prize. The Singularity is her second novel.

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About the book

Sold to

Arabic: Dar Tashkeel, Australia: Text Publishing , Bulgaria: Colibri, Canada: Book*Hug, Kurdish: Pall Wesan, Netherlands: Kievenaar, Norway: Solum/Bokvennen, Serbia: Blum, Spain: Editorial Mapa, UK: Fitzcarraldo Editions , USA: Feminist Press

A mother is searching for her child, walking the streets calling her name. She is searching along the corniche where her daughter used to work. She keeps searching until she loses her mind, frantic with grief, forgetting her other children. What kind of mother could keep on living after the disappearance of her child?

A woman is on vacation, with a baby growing inside her belly, when she sees someone falling off the corniche. Later she will have to give birth to her stillborn child, refusing for as long as possible, imagining that as long as the baby is still inside her, it cannot be entirely lost.

The woman who has lost her baby is thinking about her own mother, remembering how she had once arrived at the parent-teacher meeting wearing the most precious piece of clothing she owned: a black-and-white rabbit fur she had received as a gift. Some of the older kids had pointed at her and laughed. Later, on their way home, she had walked far ahead of her mother. She remembers her mother’s losses: the loss of a language, a country, an identity. Is it possible to create a hierarchy of trauma?

Balsam Karam’s new novel The Singularity is an emotionally powerful and political work of grief, and can be read in adjunction with her radiant debut novel Event Horizon, if you so wish.

“I don’t know anyone who writes like Balsam Karam. She blows me away. Truly one of the most original and extraordinary voices to come out of Scandinavia in… forever. You’ll realize twenty minutes after you’ve finished The Singularity that you’re still sitting there, holding on to it.”
—Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove

“Balsam Karam writes at the limits of narrative, limning the boundary of loss where ‘no space remains between bodies in the singularity.’ With a lucid intimacy, Karam braids a story of witness and motherhood that fractures from within only to rebuild memory and home on its own terms. The Singularity is a book of conviction, where those who have been made to disappear find light and keep their secrets too.”
—Shazia Hafiz Ramji, author of Port of Being

“Lyrical, devastating, and completely original, The Singularity is a work of extraordinary vision and heart. Balsam Karam’s writing is formally inventive and stylistically breathtaking, and Saskia Vogel’s translation does shining justice to its poetic precision and depths.”
—Preti Taneja, author of Aftermath

The Singularity by Balsam Karam is a novel about loss and longing—a mother who misses her child, children who miss their mother, and all of those who miss their country as they try to feel the new earth in their new land. A deeply moving work of fiction from a true voice of Scandinavia.”
—Shahrnush Parsipur, author of Women Without Men

“Astringent, fuguelike. . . . A knotty, sui generis evocation of mothers’ feelings of fear and loss.”
—Kirkus Reviews

SHORTLISTED FOR THE AUGUST PRIZE 2021

SHORTLISTED FOR SVENSKA DAGBLADET’S LITERATURE PRIZE 2021

SHORTLISTED FOR THE EUROPEAN UNION PRIZE FOR LITERATURE 2021

Reviews

I cannot recall anyone else in contemporary Swedish literature who writes like Karam

The lyrical prose demands focused, slow reading. There is no room for impatience and negligence, every word is important, and the sentences are ingeniously composed with unexpected turns and with word orders that enforces presence. It is a distinctive prose – I cannot recall anyone else in contemporary Swedish literature who writes like Karam – with a remarkable beauty. This linguistic loveliness could very well conceal the horrors and injustices that she portrays, but with Karam it becomes the opposite: inexorably real.

Svenska Dagbladet
The Singularity is a journey into a black hole. A point without no return

Yes, Balsam Karam’s language is entirely her own. It is poetic and suggestive. Sometimes like one big stream-of-consciousness, where two different scenarios are portrayed parallelly. To be here and now and at the same time in the past. To carry one’s losses, engraved on one’s body like deep wounds. Because who can rank traumas, as the novel suggests. The loss of a child, a language, a country, an identity /… / The Singularity is a journey into a black hole. A point without no return.

Jönköpings-Posten
The Singularity is a novel that appears to have been created from dark matter, elusive, giddying and with an enormous linguistic and narrative density
Expressen
The Singularity is elegant – and explosive – prose

The story concerns a mother who is desperately searching for her missing seventeen-year-old daughter. It concerns a young woman whose baby dies in her womb when she is nine months pregnant. It concerns people who have been displaced as a consequence of war, who have lost their homeland, their family, their friends, their language, their identity, their existence. It concerns losses. Pressure points where everything is concentrated /… / The Singularity is composed with a great deal of complexity, that much is clear. However, the novel is not inaccessible by any means, as the author’s accurate prose conveys such distinct images – the alley, the coastal town, a refugee family’s suitcases at Arlanda, an ultrasound without a heartbeat. There are currently many books written about grief and mourning. Emotions are profitable. But Balsam Karam fortunately moves in a different dimension, beyond sentimentality. It would only be ridiculous to claim that The Singularity is affecting. If anything, it hits hard. The resistance vibrates both inside and underneath the text. An irrepressible refusal to accept injustices. The Singularity is elegant – and explosive – prose.

Arbetarbladet

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