Where You Come From
Longlisted for the 2022 National Book Award
A Washington Post, Chicago Review of Books, Kirkus, and Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Month
“Inventive, funny and moving.” —The New York Times Book Review
Translated from the German by Damion Searls
Winner of the German Book Prize, Saša Stanišic’s inventive and surprising novel asks: what makes us who we are?
In August, 1992, a boy and his mother flee the war in Yugoslavia and arrive in Germany. Six months later, the boy’s father joins them, bringing a brown suitcase, insomnia, and a scar on his thigh. Saša Stanišic’s Where You Come From is a novel about this family, whose world is uprooted and remade by war: their history, their life before the conflict, and the years that followed their escape as they created a new life in a new country.
Blending autofiction, fable, and choose-your-own-adventure, Where You Come From is set in a village where only thirteen people remain, in lost and made-up memories, in coincidences, in choices, and in a dragons’ den. Translated by Damion Searls, it’s a novel about homelands, both remembered and imagined, lost and found. A book that playfully twists form and genre with wit and heart to explore questions that lie inside all of us: about language and shame, about arrival and making it just in time, about luck and death, about what role our origins and memories play in our lives.
Inventive, funny and moving. . . . Damion Searls’s translation does justice to Stanišic’s dry wit and linguistic playfulness, and captures the tense undercurrents building throughout the book.
—The New York Times Book Review
Charming. . . . This realistic portrayal of refugees will engender compassion with its humor and subtlety.
—The Washington Post
Stanišic is] a Bosnian-German wunderkind whose gripping tale about a
refugee family marries formal experimentation and deadpan humor amid the
suffocating smoke of survivors’ guilt.
Saša Stanišic is a revolutionary who has found his true home in language.
—The Rolling Stone
Where You Come From is a deeply beautiful book, painfully so at times, on the ties that bind us: home, family, story, language. . . . a rich tapestry whose embrace shows us a little more about the world, and a little more about ourselves.
—Chicago Review of Books
—The Guardian (UK)
Impressive. . . . Moving and imaginative.
—The Times Literary Supplement (UK)
A confident, careening novel. . . . packs in history, legend, and current events, plus a poignant choose-your-own-adventure ending.
—Christian Science Monitor
A novel about how stories come to be written, transmitted and often distorted, forgotten or erased. . . . Stanišic is a versatile writer and moments of acerbic wit—which recall the razor-sharp commentary of fellow Yugoslav-born author Dubravka Ugresic—are interspersed with poignant descriptions of unbelonging in Germany.
A thrilling shapeshifter of a novel.
Vast and multifaceted. . . . a timely antidote to poisonous political
blame-games and sneering statements about the plight of refugees.
The idea that Saša Stanišic’s new book brings together ‘autofiction, fable, and choose-your-own-adventure’ is too hard to resist. That’s a bold array of elements to bring together; for a book like this, that addresses the legacy of war and questions of national identity, it sounds especially compelling.
Where You Come From is presented in a light, appealing style. . . . keen observations and scenes, all of it going down easily in a quick, solid read.
—The Complete Review
Where You Come From is a triumph, funny and touching and subtly profound. As it ranges from chronicle to prose poem to folk tale, it builds a momentum that dazzles throughout. An exhilarating and powerful read.
—Jennifer Croft, author of Homesick
A Speak, Memory for ‘The Garden of Forking Paths,’ Stanišic’s tour of his lost homeland is imbued with wit and affection. He knows stories are all we have, and that some stories can’t be bound by a single ending. A marvel and a delight.
—Ryan Chapman, author of Riots I Have Known
Tender, intelligent, and brilliant. . . . a stunning novel that asks what it really means to be from somewhere, anywhere.
—Kirkus, Starred Review
A shape-shifting self-portrait with some mesmerizing elements.
A playful, formally adventurous novel that freely blends truth and fiction in its meditation on homelands. . . . The novel is determined to surprise and unmoor readers, perhaps in the same way the author/protagonist found the course of his own life surprising and disconcerting, with the author’s restless imagination a constant, delightful companion.