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The Singularity by Balsam Karam, translated by Saskia Vogel

The Singularity by Balsam Karam, translated by Saskia Vogel


Literature in Translation Series
Literary Fiction
Publication Date: January 24, 2024
5 x 8 inches
208 pages
Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781771668897

Trade Paperback
(In stock)
(In stock)

Lyrical and devastating, The Singularity is a breathtaking study of grief, migration, and motherhood from one of Sweden’s most exciting contemporary novelists.

In an unnamed coastal city filled with refugees, 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 and searches until, spent from grief, she throws herself into the sea, leaving her other children behind. Bearing witness to the suicide is another woman—on a business trip, with a swollen belly that later gives birth to a stillborn baby. In the wake of her pain, the second woman remembers other losses—of a language, a country, an identity—when once, her family fled a distant war.

Balsam Karam weaves between both narratives in this formally ambitious novel and offers a fresh approach to language and aesthetic as she decenters a white European gaze. Her English-language debut, The Singularity is a powerful exploration of loss, history, and memory.

Praise for The Singularity

“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 this book 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

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: A Novel of Modern Iran

“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

International Praise for The Singularity

“Balsam Karam’s new novel is enormously powerful… To read The Singularity is like drinking directly from a flood of tears.” —Aftonbladet 

“A novel that appears to have been created from dark matter, elusive, giddying and with an enormous linguistic and narrative density.” —Expressen

“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 in parallel. 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 of no return.” —Jönköpings-Posten 

Press Coverage

“Language is at the heart of The Singularity, moving as it does from chaos and cacophony to the simple purity of a single voice, which is one measure of its brilliance and its beauty.” —The Guardian

“Mesmerizing and harrowing, The Singularity is a novel of personal and cultural loss and anguished remembrance.” —Foreword Reviews

The “singularity” of the title refers to the force in astrophysics that “pushes bodies together and renders the distance between them nil,” a meaningful metaphor for two women similarly bereft. Translator Vogel deftly manages Karam’s rhetorical shifts while preserving the mood of disorientation. The book doesn’t resolve its central crisis so much as suggest that such crises are all-pervasive, and that migrants will continue to absorb abuses that are bigoted at best and fatal at worst. A knotty, sui generis evocation of mothers’ feelings of fear and loss.”  —Kirkus Reviews

“The slim, subtle, and somewhat abstract narrative gestures at grand tragedy in its depiction of the indifferent metropolis as “a hole between what came to be and what could have been,” where tourists pay little mind to a refugee’s for her missing daughter. This is powerful.” —starred review, Publishers Weekly

A review of  The Singularity by Balsam Karam —Asian Review of Books

“A story of losses handed down from mothers to daughters and of the echoes that violence and displacement exert from one generation to another.” —Emily McBride, The Rumpus

Read an excerpt from Balsam Karam’s lyrical, breathtaking novel, The SingularityOpen Book

Beautiful Books: The SingularityAll Lit Up

“Ultimately, Karam’s book illustrates in vivid detail—in just 200 pages, intricate yet in accessible prose—the vivid trapped existence of refugees, of how they begin to live outside time and space, of how the world seems not to see or acknowledge their past or their presence, while denying them a future.” —Chicago Review of Books

Every Mother’s Grief Is Also Our Own: Balsam Karam’s “The Singularity” —Liz Wood, Words Without Borders

“A novel about what it means to exist in a fractured, tenuous motherhood that is and is not, The Singularity examines what it means to collapse motherhood into itself, to look both backwards and forwards to negotiate a new self against a landscape that is fundamentally cruel, even as it glitters perpetually.” Vika Mujumdar, The Massachusetts Review

Read an Excerpt from The Singularity —Literary Hub

“The Singularity bears a pervasive heaviness, saturated as it is by grief and trauma, and it refuses narrative closure. Yet there is beauty in the novel, as well, in the moments of identification and solidarity, in the originality of the writing, and in the intimacy of these intertwined narratives.” Clementine Oberst, starred review, The Miramichi Reader

“With its sobering account of a lost future and revelations about the protagonist’s defining childhood friendship, The Singularity is frequently heart-in-your-mouth reading.” The Rumpus

“It’s a postmodern upending of the traditional Western context for a narrative and it is key to Balsam’s approach: she is announcing, quietly, like most everything else in this book, that her story will focus on the periphery, what is traditionally viewed as “elsewhere” in the Western psyche.” Steven Beattie, That Shakespearean Rag

“Karam..has an eye for poignant shifts in perspectives. The story of a mother searching for her daughter runs parallel to that of a visitor, herself a former refugee and soon-to-be mother, wrestling with her own history of displacement. The two narratives refract and then come together in a poetic convergence. There is a haunting, hushed tone to the novel, neatly evoked by Saskia Vogel’s translation from the Swedish, that probes the disorienting effects of exile.” —Anderson Tepper, The New York Times

“In The Singularity, motherhood, displacement, racism, and tourism careen through a black hole of grief. These topics will linger with you, leading you to wonder who really died on the corniche that day.” Jess Jensen Mitchell, Full Stop


About the Author

BALSAM KARAM is of Kurdish ancestry and has lived in Sweden since she was a young child. She is an author and librarian and made her literary debut in 2018 with the critically acclaimed novel, Event Horizon, which was shortlisted for the Katapult Prize and won the Smaland Literature Festival’s Migrant Prize. Her second novel, The Singularity, originally published in Sweden in 2021, was shortlisted for the European Union Prize for Literature, the August Prize, and Svenska Dagbladet’s Literature Prize.


SASKIA VOGEL is the author of the novel Permission and a translator of more than 20 Swedish-language books. Her writing has been awarded the Berlin Senate Endowment for Non-German Literature. Her translations have won the CLMP Firecracker Award for Fiction (Johannes Anyuru’s They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears), have been shortlisted for the PEN Translation Prize (Jessica Schiefauer’s Girls Lost), and supported by grants from the Swedish Arts Council, the Swedish Authors’ Fund, and English PEN. She was Princeton’s Translator in Residence in fall 2022 and lives in Berlin.