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Johannes Anyuru

They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears

A winter night in Gothenburg. Three individuals, who have sworn allegiance to the crumbling terror state Daesh, enter a local book store where a controversial comic artist has been invited to talk about freedom of expression and blasphemy. His appearance is disrupted by gunshot, panic breaks out and everyone in the store is taken hostage. One of the attackers, a young woman, is tasked to film the violence and put it up on a live feed on internet. But as the situation escalates, she turns to one of the others and whispers: Everything is wrong. We shouldn’t be here. We should leave.

Two years later, an author visits the young woman at a clinic for forensic psychiatry. She has read his books, and asked for him. He comes, reluctantly; in his eyes she is a demon that has stolen his face, his religion. At the same time, he is curious to find out what she wants. Curious about the mystery of this young Belgian girl, who suddenly showed up in Sweden, no longer knowing her mother tongue or acknowledging the name in her passport, and who performed this heinous act of terror. She hands him a bunch of papers, asks him to read them, to tell her what he thinks. And as he is about to leave, she tells her secret: that she is not from here, not from this now. That she is in fact from the future.

Over the next couple of years, the author seeks out the survivors as well as relatives of the attackers, tries to find out more than what can be told from media headlines and the brutality of the girl’s film. He continues to visit the girl in the clinic and she continues to write about the reality she comes from: the persecutions, the degradations, the Rabbit Yard. There is something about her story that he cannot put his finger on, that cannot just be attributed her schizophrenia. At the same time, he and his wife are planning their move to another country, to secure a better future for themselves and their daughter. The young woman in the clinic is disappearing more and more often, giving room for that other girl, the Belgian one, who does not recognize his face or speak his language. Time is running out for him to unlock the mystery.

They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears is an intense story filled with sorrow over the state of the world today. It’s about hope and hopelessness, about friendship and betrayal, and about the ugly theater of terror and fascism. Johannes Anyuru shows us once again that he is a master of words and time, and that he justly deserves his place among the big international names of his generation.

WINNER OF THE AUGUST PRIZE 2017

WINNER OF THE PER OLOV ENQUIST LITERARY PRIZE 2017

WINNER OF THE ANIARA PRIZE 2017

Johannes

About the author

Anyuru

Johannes Anyuru (born 1979) is a poet and novelist. He debuted in 2003 with the critically acclaimed collection of poems Only The Gods Are New. His 2017 novel, They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears, was awarded the August Prize for Best Fiction and has been sold to 17 territories. Anyuru’s work has been likened to a mix between…

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About the book

Sold to

Sold to: Arabic, Bulgaria: Matcom, Denmark: Gyldendal, Estonia: Eesti Raamat, Finland: Schildts, France: Actes Sud, Germany: Luchterhand, Hungary: Metropolis Media, Macedonia: Begemot, Netherlands: De Geus, Norway: Forlaget Press, Poland: Prószynski, Serbia: Dereta, Spain: Nórdica Libros, US: Two Lines Press

A winter night in Gothenburg. Three individuals, who have sworn allegiance to the crumbling terror state Daesh, enter a local book store where a controversial comic artist has been invited to talk about freedom of expression and blasphemy. His appearance is disrupted by gunshot, panic breaks out and everyone in the store is taken hostage. One of the attackers, a young woman, is tasked to film the violence and put it up on a live feed on internet. But as the situation escalates, she turns to one of the others and whispers: Everything is wrong. We shouldn’t be here. We should leave.

Two years later, an author visits the young woman at a clinic for forensic psychiatry. She has read his books, and asked for him. He comes, reluctantly; in his eyes she is a demon that has stolen his face, his religion. At the same time, he is curious to find out what she wants. Curious about the mystery of this young Belgian girl, who suddenly showed up in Sweden, no longer knowing her mother tongue or acknowledging the name in her passport, and who performed this heinous act of terror. She hands him a bunch of papers, asks him to read them, to tell her what he thinks. And as he is about to leave, she tells her secret: that she is not from here, not from this now. That she is in fact from the future.

Over the next couple of years, the author seeks out the survivors as well as relatives of the attackers, tries to find out more than what can be told from media headlines and the brutality of the girl’s film. He continues to visit the girl in the clinic and she continues to write about the reality she comes from: the persecutions, the degradations, the Rabbit Yard. There is something about her story that he cannot put his finger on, that cannot just be attributed her schizophrenia. At the same time, he and his wife are planning their move to another country, to secure a better future for themselves and their daughter. The young woman in the clinic is disappearing more and more often, giving room for that other girl, the Belgian one, who does not recognize his face or speak his language. Time is running out for him to unlock the mystery.

They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears is an intense story filled with sorrow over the state of the world today. It’s about hope and hopelessness, about friendship and betrayal, and about the ugly theater of terror and fascism. Johannes Anyuru shows us once again that he is a master of words and time, and that he justly deserves his place among the big international names of his generation.

WINNER OF THE AUGUST PRIZE 2017

WINNER OF THE PER OLOV ENQUIST LITERARY PRIZE 2017

WINNER OF THE ANIARA PRIZE 2017

Reviews

...a “state of the nation” novel for a country that seems to be losing faith in the civic values for which it is internationally admired

[They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears] has a powerful emotional core… Anyuru’s ability to imagine a thread connecting present-day exclusion to future atrocities makes this more than a genre entertainment. He has written a “state of the nation” novel for a country that seems to be losing faith in the civic values for which it is internationally admired

New York Times
It’s a rare author who has such sensitivity with explosive materials

It’s a rare author who has such sensitivity with explosive materials… Saskia Vogel’s translation achieves a difficult balance, nimble yet compassionate. She captures Annika’s mash-up of Western slang and Koranic Arabic, its humor often a relief, and also the more complex contemplations of the writer, poetic and touching… I came away thinking of the book as an attempt to forge a more humane means of expression, one that could surmount all our fears and failures.

Washington Post
…an ingeniously plotted work

…an ingeniously plotted work…Anyuru’s dystopia persuades because it is inextricable from the anxieties of his Muslim characters in contemporary Sweden, from disaffected youths who sell hash and flirt with radicalism to imams preaching forbearance in cramped basement mosques. The grammar of their faith, from its rituals of prayer to its reassurances of eternity, offers a means of orientation beyond precarious circumstances—as well as a counterpoint to the nativist equation of birthplace and belonging.

Harper's Magazine
Anyuru, a poet as well as playwright and novelist, provides an engaging literary experience

This novel blends topical societal issues with a speculative literary trope made fresh by being viewed through a powerful psychological lens. Anyuru, a poet as well as playwright and novelist, provides an engaging literary experience, a Möbius strip-like ride-in-time couched in finely-polished language

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