Marjana Gaponenko

Who is Martha? - Novel

(German title: Wer ist Martha?)
ca. 237 pages
Marjana Gaponenko
Foto: Marjana Gaponenko
© Mathias Bothor/Photoselection

Marjana Gaponenko was born in 1981 in Odessa, Ukraine. She took private lessons and has been writing in German since she was sixteen. After spending time in Krakow and Dublin she now lives in Mayence and Vienna. Her first novel, Annuschka Blume, was published in 2010. Who is Martha? is her first book with Suhrkamp. In 2013, Marjana Gaponenko has received the Adelbert-von-Chamisso-Prize.

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English world rights (New Vessel Press; English world audio rights sublicense: Listen Up Audiobooks), France (Fayard), Italy (Elliot), Thailand (Legend Books), Bulgaria (Rhizome), Croatia (Hrvatsko Filolosko Drustvo), Turkey (Aylak Adam), Ukraine (Books XXI)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Book Club rights (Büchergilde Gutenberg)

Adelbert-von-Chamisso-Prize 2013

A novel with trumpets and timpani


We won’t give away who Martha is, but we can tell you this much about the protagonist Luka Lewadski: a Ukrainian ornithologist and author of the groundbreaking study On the Mathematical Shortcomings of Corvids. Old age has crept up on him while he was busy with his research and now he is ninety-six. He doesn’t have much time left, his doctor tells him.

And he’s going to make good use of it, Lewadski tells himself. So he buys himself the most expensive cufflinks he can find and makes his way to Vienna where he checks into the posh Hotel Imperial. In the lift he meets a gentleman his own age who also doesn’t have long to live. Like Statler and Waldorf on the Muppet Show, the two elderly gentlemen sit in the hotel bar drinking flavoured vodka, commenting on the ladies’ hairstyles, recalling the bloody history of the past century and dreaming of the revolution. And little by little Lewardski’s death fund starts to run dry.

Who is Martha? is a wonderfully bold and supremely entertaining novel. It is about the joy of living, the dignity of mankind, and the love of creation. Marjana Gaponenko approaches these and the last things in her own way: Who is Martha? is a sensational, inspirational, celebrational novel, so imaginative and original, so irreverent and full of life that even Death himself would die laughing.


Selected Foreign Editions


English edition released by New Vessel Press >>

French edition released by Fayard >>

Italian edition released by Elliot >>


»No less extraordinary than this young woman, who looks like a Russian princess, is her novel: a celebration of creation and all its wonders, full of the joy of life, even if it is about the last things.« Volker Hage, Der Spiegel

»With this novel, Marjana Gaponenko has given us something extraordinary: a profoundly exciting and funny story about a topic that could not be more serious.« Irmtraud Gutschke, neues deutschland

»A book like a fantastic party, unshakeable like a child’s faith, and wherever it might have been intellectually untenable, the courageous language carries it confidently. Astonishing to the last.« Angelika Overath, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

»Who Is Martha? is a work of unbridled imagination. Marjana Gaponenko is exuberantly talented, and here she pulls out all the stops.« Paul Jandl, Die Welt

»Who Is Martha? by Ukrainian-born Gaponenko is a captivating, highly poetic picaresque.« Ulrich Steinmetzger, Nürnberger Nachrichten

»The result is a skilful, eloquent, and endearing novel in which Marjana Gaponenko demonstrates a great deal of empathy and an equal degree of affection for her characters. But behind the somewhat playful exterior there are a number of hidden secrets and mysteries, such as the titular question about Martha. And seriously: who is Martha, anyway?« Irene Binal, ORF

»Who Is Martha? is a joy.« Sophie Jung, taz

»In this poetic picaresque she makes virtuosic use of the entire repertoire of the tragicomic. Staying just this side of slapstick, she develops whimsical observations about the world. Her tone is original, fresh and deeply funny. A defence of the joy of being.« Ulrich Steinmetzger, Hessische/Niedersächsische Allgemeine

»An original, exhilarating novel, highly recommended.« Michael Braun, medienprofile.de

»Marjana Gaponenko has written a novel with the courage just to be about how wonderful life can be. Right up to the end.« fixpoetry.com

»Who Is Martha? is a sensational, inspirational, celebrational novel, so imaginative and original, so irreverent and full of life that even Death himself would die laughing.« prberghoff.de

»With Who Is Martha? Marjana Gaponenko has written a very special novel, in a wilful, grandly ornamental style that does not shy away from pathos without ever feeling kitschy.« belletristik-couch.de


Marjana Gaponenko reads from her novel Who is Martha?