Svenja Leiber

Dust - Novel

(German title: Staub)
ca. 243 pages
Svenja Leiber
Foto: Svenja Leiber
© Stefan Klüter

Svenja Leiber, born 1975 in Hamburg, grew up in northern Germany and lived in Saudi Arabia for a while. Today she lives with her husband and two children in Berlin.

In 2005 her short story collection Büchsenlicht was published, and in 2010 her novel Schipino. She has won several prizes including the Werner Bergengruen Prize in 2007, and the EHF Stipend of the Conrad Adenauer Stiftung in 2010. The Last Land is her first book with Suhrkamp.

Sold to

English world rights (Seagull), Arabic world rights (Kalima)

Revolt of the Living


As an eleven-year-old, Jonas Blaum spends a year in Saudi Arabia together with his parents and his two siblings – the father has accepted a position as a doctor at a hospital in Riyadh. The Germans are having a hard time adapting to life in the strange country. When the Blaum’s youngest child, a girl who identifies as a boy, disappears without a trace one day, and returns a short while later, unharmed but without speech, the family returns to Germany hastily.

In the summer of 2014, Jonas Blaum, by now a doctor himself, an addict plagued by doubts, travels to the Middle East once more, this time to Amman. There, a boy suffering from a mysterious illness is consigned to his care. Blaum finds himself unable to help the child, who reminds him of the biggest loss of his life. When the boy disappears one day, the doctor conceives a frightful suspicion.

Through insistent and powerful images, Svenja Leiber tells the story both of an individual catastrophe and that of an entire region with emphatic imagery. The race against time for the life of a child becomes an allegory of a twofold fight: against the numbness of the invidual corsetted by societal restrictions and against the power of obsolete, aged regimes.


»This novel is full of strange perspectives and the arabesques of being human. Existential questions shimmer through them all as does the admirable intelligence of a novel that refuses to sacrifice its demands to a superficial sense of realism.« Paul Jandl, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

»In this novel the past and present are tremendously intertwined and, through the perceptions and experiences of her protagonists, Svenja Leiber offers the reader the chance to let go of rigid ideas while at the same time allowing seeming opposites to come together. This makes her book literary, humane, and politically meaningful.« Deutschlandfunk Kultur

»Svenja Leiber allows the unfamiliar to shine, to become real.« taz. die tageszeitung

»Svenja Leiber finds her own sound, a unique accelerando and ritardando within the narration, through which details and protagonists shine in tremendous concision.« Stuttgarter Zeitung

»Svenja Leiber’s novel is a cyclone sweeping through the desert of dialectical thinking.« Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»Dust is a novel that does not always deliver answers to the existential questions it poses. And that is precisely why it is worth reading.« ORF Ö1 Ex Libris

»Svenja Leiber writes with a literary power she radically forces upon the reader. Beginning on the first page.« GALORE

»Dust is a novel which does not always have the answers to the existential questions it poses. And that is precisely why it is worth reading.« Saarländischer Rundfunk

»This book about an addicted young doctor unable to deal with life is utterly fascinating and captivating.« Münchner Feuilleton

Other publications

Das letzte Land/The Last Land (2014)

Sold to:

English world rights (Seagull), Spanish world rights (Malpaso), Italy (Keller Editore)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Audiobook (DAV)