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Grjasnowa's writing itself is similarly slow to take off. Initial allusions to the cultural identity issues that are ultimately part of the fabric of "All Russians" feel a bit forced, as when Masha says to Elias, "You always have to play the compassionate German, huh?

With Elias mostly out of the picture from part two onward, Grjasnowa seems to find more of a rhythm as Masha becomes unmoored, spending more time with her former lover Sami and her close friend Cem, both of whom also have very multicultural backgrounds.

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It's a common occurrence for people to not know how to ethnically pigeonhole any one of them. Masha eventually moves to Israel, plunging herself into another realm afflicted with its own set of complex cultural and political issues, and acquiring other romantic connections there, as well.


Grjasnowa's spare prose, in Eva Bacon's translation from the German, portrays Masha as blunt, dryly humorous and no-nonsense — sometimes nearly clinically so — whether in the midst of grief or arousal. In fact, at the extreme end, some lines are so flat as to seem curiously valueless "I took a peanut, felt the salty taste on my tongue, and chewed it up". The book's biggest problem may be a lack of cohesion; the brief part four is such a departure that it almost feels like an appendix.

At the same time, one need only consider the inherent tendencies of the time of life being depicted. In "All Russians," Grjasnowa expresses the tumultuousness and indirect trajectories of youth against a world that's anything but fixed. Home All Sections Search.

All Russians Love Birch Trees – Olga Grjasnowa

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Olga Grjasnowa: ‘All Russians Love Birch Trees’

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All Russians Love Birch Trees by Olga Grjasnova | Books

Paul man charged in back-to-back suspected hate-motivated crimes. Minneapolis' acclaimed Corner Table to close at the end of the month. Sorry, but why do Minnesotans say 'ope' all the time? As drive-ins disappear, young people flock to Lake Elmo's Vali-Hi. Olga Grjasnowa Photo by Rene Fietzek. It gains its power slowly through the accumulation of irony and thematic resonances. In the second half of the book she moves to Israel, where she has extended family, and starts up a troubled romantic relationship with a woman named Tal, a leftist political activist fighting for the rights of Palestinians.

Narratively, the novel flags a bit in its final pages, as Masha finds herself, through a dream-like series of events, wandering alone through the streets of Ramallah.

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The indeterminate nature of the ending may be frustrating to some readers. Thematically, however, this is a novel deeply invested in the idea that the past is always with us, and so are the identities we have inherited, whether we like it or not. Another German acquaintance, Daniel, makes only two brief appearances in the novel, but both are emblematic. Early in the novel he assumes that Masha, being Jewish, should sympathize with Israel and the Zionist cause. When she runs into him again much later, in Israel, he has visited Lebanon and changed his opinion.

Translated from the German by Eva Bacon

With Israel. All this injustice and wars. I had no idea. You always brushed me off. They told me they hate the Jews. But I corrected them.