“I came away thinking of the book as an attempt to forge a more humane means of expression, one that could surmount all our fears and failures.”
Ever since we learned about Johannes Anyuru’s 2017 novel De kommer att drunkna i sina mödrars tårar, we knew we needed to read it in English. A near-future dystopia working in the traditions of Philip K. Dick, N.K. Jemisin, and Octavia Butler from a rising star of Swedish letters, Anyuru’s scarily-easy-to-believe speculative fiction sounded frightening, prescient—and, importantly, given the subject matter, a bit complicated. When Saskia Vogel’s stellar translation from Swedish arrived in our inboxes, now bearing the title They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears, we knew for sure we’d made the right decision.
As of just a few weeks ago, Anyuru’s novel is out there in bookstores and libraries. The response from critics, we’re delighted to say, has been swift and thoughtful. In the Washington Post, in a review accurately entitled “Johannes Anyuru’s latest novel is an award winner in Sweden. If there’s any justice, some of that success will cross the Atlantic,” critic John Domini writes that he “came away thinking of the book as an attempt to forge a more humane means of expression, one that could surmount all our fears and failures.” What more could one ask for from a reading experience, from a book?
Julian Lucas, in Harper’s Magazine, calls the book “ingeniously plotted,” adding this: “Anyuru’s dystopia persuades because it is inextricable from the anxieties of his Muslim characters in contemporary Sweden, from disaffected youths who sell hash and flirt with radicalism to imams preaching forbearance in cramped basement mosques. The grammar of their faith, from its rituals of prayer to its reassurances of eternity, offers a means of orientation beyond precarious circumstances—as well as a counterpoint to the nativist equation of birthplace and belonging.” Like we said: thoughtful.
But that’s not all. In the New York Times, Hari Kunzru, author of White Tears, calls special attention to the novel’s “powerful emotional core.” It’s a “‘state of the nation’ novel for a country that seems to be losing faith in the civic values for which it is internationally admired.” Over at Tor.com, Tobias Carroll notes that “Anyuru doesn’t shy away from asking big questions in this novel, and the result is a searing meditation on some of today’s most unnerving subjects.”
I could go on, but I’d rather pass the mic to Anyuru himself. Here he is being interviewed by the Louisiana Channel. It’s a long, illuminating conversation about his discovery of poetry (Ginsberg was first), being Muslim in Europe today, and searching for “…something invisible. A dream.” Well worth the listen. My personal recommendation? Get to know Johannes Anyuru and his incredible novel.