Sasha Marianna Salzmann

Beside Myself - Novel

Literal translation of German title: Beside Yourself
(German title: Außer sich)
ca. 366 pages
Sasha Marianna Salzmann
Foto: Sasha Marianna Salzmann
© Heike Steinweg

Sasha Salzmann was born in Volgograd in 1985 and grew up in Moscow. In 1995, the family emigrated to Germany. Subsequently, Salzmann studied Literature, Theatre and Media at the University of Hildesheim and Creative Writing for the Stage at the Berlin University of the Arts and is now a playwright, essayist, curator and writer in residence at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin. Salzmann is the co-founder of the culture magazine freitext, was the artistic director of STUDIO Я ( »best experimental stage of the year« 2014) and co-founded NIDS – New Institute for Drama, where they give workshops on political writing. Salzmann‘s work has been translated, shown and awarded in over 20 countries. In 16/17 they were voted »the German speaking theater maker of the season«. In 2017, Salzmann published a novel entitled Beside Myself, which is translated into 16 languages and won the Mara-Cassens Prize and the Jürgen-Ponto Award for best debut novel. It was also shortlisted for the German Book Prize 2017, the Premio Strega Europeo 2019 and the Angelus Central European Literature Award 2019.

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English world rights (Text; US/Canada sublicense: The Other Press, US/Canada audio book sublicense: Blackstone), Spanish world rights (Seix Barral), Catalan rights (Més Llibres), Portugal (Dom Quixote), France (Grasset), Italy (Marsilio Editore), Netherlands (Atlas/Contact), Denmark (People’s Press), Sweden (Weyler), Poland (Prószyński), Hungary (Fekete Sas), Bulgaria (Black Flamingo), Greece (Patakis), Uzbekistan (Turon-Iqbol), Israel (Matar)

Shortlisted for the German Book Prize 2017

Nominated for the Premio Strega Europeo 2019 (Italy)

Shortlisted for the Angelus Central European Literature Award (Poland)

Grand Prize for Literary Translation 2019 (Portugal)

Literary Prize of the Jürgen Ponto-Stiftung 2017 (Germany)

Chosen for the 2020 New York Times Book Review Globetrotting Selection


Shortlisted for the ZDF-“aspekte”-Literaturpreis 2017 (Germany)


Who’s to tell you who you are?


There’s the two of them, since the beginning, twins Alissa and Anton. In the small two-bedroom apartment in Moscow during the post-Soviet years, they dig their fingers into each other’s curls when their parents are fighting. Later, in the Western German countryside, they roam the hallways of the asylum home, steal cigarettes from other families’ rooms and smell their perfume bottles. And later still, when Alissa has already dropped out of her mathematics degree at university because it’s keeping her from her boxing training, Anton disappears without a trace. Eventually, a postcard arrives from Istanbul—no text, no return address. Alissa sets out on a search in the shimmering, torn city by the Bosporus and within her own family history—looking for her missing brother, but most of all, searching for the feeling of belonging that isn’t connected to one’s native country, mother tongue, or gender.

The novel tells the story of the past century, along with all its secondary effects palpable in the new millennium. It tells the story of a family across four generations, a story of latent and undisguised antisemitism in the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet era; it tells a story of migration and the shattered hopes for a better life, both in the native country and the foreign one. This is a novel about a young generation with a so-called migrant background that doesn’t know what to make of a term like »home country«, but that still deals with the question of belonging somewhere and with a notion of identity that is deemed questionable; it’s a novel about searching—for a missing brother, for fragments of a family history, for support, for an answer to the question: who’s to tell you who you are?

The novel sets in at the beginning of the 20th century in Odessa, leads from stops in Chernivtsi, Volgograd, and Moscow to Berlin and ends in Istanbul in July of 2016, in the days of a quickly failing coup d’état attempt.

In her debut novel Beside Yourself, Sasha Marianna Salzmann explores this question and tells of the unquenchable yearning for life itself and its challenging immensity. Intense, uncompromising, and political in the best sense.


»[A] fascinating first novel [...] Salzmann’s cool, disaffected narrative voice [...] is a wonder to behold.« Kirkus Reviews

»Salzmann thoughtfully and cleverly addresses the themes of memory, identity, and migration, asking if language, nationality, or gender are important for our self-definition.« World of Literature Today

»A compelling journey of discovery and change.« Booklist

»Sasha Marianna Salzmann’s debut novel comes straight from the gates like a raging bull… Beside Myself is fiction at its highest purpose. If we read to understand ours and others’ unbearable lightness – to try and make sense of our surroundings – this book is truly the contemporary counterpart to ideas on family, identity, time and place. It illuminates the gaps we previously thought were great divides, showing what more we can learn from each other.« ArtsHub

»Beautifully written despite the darkness of its story and texture. There are hundreds of glimpses of worlds inside worlds… Beside Myself is both a cool thriller and a meditation on family.« Saturday Paper

»[A]s a work operating within the burgeoning mode of ›identity‹ it is exciting and enriching… Beside Myself is a book that requires work but it is work worth being lost in.« Lifted Brow

»Beside Myself shifts through time and place, the domestic detective story opens into a much more ambitious speculative fiction that resists easy categorisation. Sasha Marianna Salzmann’s brisk storytelling builds into a sort of brilliant literary labyrinth, one where the sanctuary of belonging remains an elusive, transient and constantly evolving thing.« Age

»[Beside Myself] conjures up emotions, sights, sounds and tastes in breathtaking detail.« Adelaide Advertiser

»The writing is skilful, vivid. You could reach out and touch these characters, you walk the streets of Istanbul as Salzmann brings them to life. Yes, it’s challenging, but with challenges come rewards.« Stuff.co.nz

»It has been a long time since I have read such a wild, lyrical and intense voice.« Ángeles López, La Razón (Spain)

»Ruptured often, full of nooks and crannies and reflections, the novel succeeds nonetheless in unfurling its breath-taking story of a family and a century like a shimmering kaleidoscope.« Sandra Kegel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»Beside Myself is a young book and an incredible mark-maker of contemporary storytelling.« Hubert Winkels, Süddeutsche Zeitung

»The expectations for the first novel by Sasha Marianna Salzmann are high and Beside Myself surpasses them.« Ulrich Seidler, Frankfurter Rundschau

»Salzmann narrates brilliantly, poetically and breathlessly. An intoxicating reading experience.« Missy Magazine

»Salzmann’s sentences flow across the page, her style is lavish and immediate[…]. Great.« Claudia Voigt, Literaturspiegel

»After reading this, you look in astonishment at the slight volume of 306 pages, because the story contains so very much. Salzmann can do theatre – she has already proved that – and she can do prose, with ease.« Tobias Hausdorg, Spiegel Online

»[…] it is above all the intensity, the vivid language and the compassionate eye cast on generations, and the story itself that make Beside Myself such a thrilling novel.« Nadine Lange, Der Tagesspiegel

»An artistically composed coming of age novel.« Lukas Latz, Der Freitag

»A book that stays with you.« stern

»This is writing by someone who has something to tell.« DIE WELT

»With her sensitive look onto a brutal present and her biographical look backwards, Salzmann is possibly the German playwright of the times.« Detlev Baur, Die Deutsche Bühne

»The Maxim Gorki Theatre is ›Theatre of the Year‹ 2016. This is also due to Sasha Marianna Salzmann.« Stefan Grund, DIE WELT


Book trailer for Beside Yourself: