Translated by Saskia Vogel
In an unnamed coastal city, the mother of a displaced family calls out her daughter’s name as she wanders the cliffside road where the child once worked. The mother searches in vain. Bearing witness is another grieving woman, there on a business trip. The second woman also suffered terrible losses—of a language, a country, an identity—when her family fled a distant war.
Balsam Karam changes the way we see the world. In this moving novel, she offers a fresh approach to language and narrative as she questions our assumptions and perspectives through her gripping story. The Singularity, her English-language debut, was shortlisted for the prestigious August Prize and the European Union Prize for Literature.
‘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.‘
‘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.’
‘A profound and emblematic tale of women’s experience of war, displacement, and loss, of nameless mothers searching for their loved ones. Balsam Karam is a rare literary talent, with deep roots in one of the world’s oldest cultures of storytellers. The Singularity is a timeless work of art; it will be praised for years to come.’
‘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.’
‘Balsam Karam’s new novel is enormously powerful…To read The Singularity is like drinking directly from a flood of tears.’
‘I cannot recall anyone else in contemporary Swedish literature who writes like Karam—with remarkable beauty. This could very well conceal the horrors and injustices she portrays, but with Karam that becomes the opposite: inexorably real.’
‘Karam’s language is entirely her own. It is poetic and suggestive, sometimes like a single stream-of-consciousness, where two different scenarios are portrayed in parallel. Here and now and at the same time in the past, carrying one’s losses, engraved on the body like deep wounds. This novel asks if traumas can be ranked—the loss of a child, a language, a country, an identity…The Singularity is a journey into a black hole. A point with no return.’
‘The Singularity is a novel that appears to have been created from dark matter, elusive, giddying and with an enormous linguistic and narrative density.’
‘Disconnection, the exclusion of human beings, is one of several epicentres in The Singularity. Or rather, human beings as consumable goods… Karam is taking a major step forward in this new novel.’
‘The Singularity is a novel that grows in strength, both in terms of structure and content. The linguistic awareness, as well as the daring stylistic techniques and the experiences described, show that Balsam Karam is an author to reckon with for years to come.’
‘Unlike dominant understandings from psychoanalysis, Karam does not present trauma as a circumscribed event that can be fixed in time and space. Rather, in The Singularity, it becomes an all-consuming state, in which new losses are understood as part of a much longer history, perhaps already predetermined long before they happen.’
‘Karam’s prose is sometimes musical, sometimes austere, sometimes light as a feather. It is lyrical, enigmatic and meticulously composed, never bombastic or sentimental…Is Balsam Karam one of Sweden’s most talented, original and relevant rising stars of literature? I believe so. I hope she never stops writing.’
‘The Singularity 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.’