cover image The Singularity

The Singularity

Balsam Karam, trans. from the Swedish by Saskia Vogel. Feminist Press, $16.95 trade paper (232p) ISBN 978-1-55861-193-1

In Karam’s beautiful and harrowing English-language debut, a pregnant woman witnesses another woman plummet to her death from a promenade above the sea. Both women are unnamed, as is the cosmopolitan, tourist-friendly city where the action takes place. Karam repeatedly portrays the suicidal jump from both women’s points of view, and in the process gradually reveals more about each character. The dead woman arrived in the city as a refugee from an unnamed war-torn country with her four children. She was becoming increasingly despondent in her search for her oldest daughter, 17, who worked at a nearby restaurant overlooking the water and has been missing for several weeks. The woman who bears witness to the mother’s death is from the same country and has relocated to the city to take an unspecified job. She’s pregnant, and Karam’s account of her determination to leave her home country before giving birth overlaps thematically with the dead woman’s story, especially after the witness’s baby is stillborn. The slim, subtle, and somewhat abstract narrative gestures at grand tragedy in its depiction of the indifferent metropolis as “a hole between what came to be and what could have been,” where tourists pay little mind to a refugee’s for her missing daughter. This is powerful. (Jan.)