by Meral Kureyshi
Translated from the German by Robert A. Cantrick
“The words catch up with me twenty years later,
I repeat them, bring them back into my mouth,
speak them through my lips,
and still do not understand them.”
When her father dies unexpectedly, the young narrator of Elephants in Our Yard finds her life thrown into disarray. As a member of a Turkish Kosovar family now living in Switzerland, she feels unwelcome in her adopted homeland and struggles to fit in and make connections with others. Aimless and adrift, she spends a year living in a state of uncertainty, fitfully attending lectures at the university, taking long train rides, and returning to places from her previous life in Prizren. Memories of her idyllic childhood in this old Ottoman city, from which she emigrated with her family at the age of ten, force their way into the present.
But the world of her childhood no longer exists, and she realizes that she, too, has changed. As she tries to find a place for herself in her new country and becomes fluent in her adopted language, she becomes increasingly more estranged from her mother with every new word of German she speaks.
Elephants in Our Yard is a poignant first novel about a life marked by migration and alienation, sadness and loss, but also by hope and new beginnings.
“[Kureyshi] has succeeded in using autobiographical set pieces to write an accessible, highly topical novel that strikes a balance between restrained language and lush, poetic
“Meral Kureyshi’s literary treatment of her migration story goes far beyond the description of an individual fate. In a dense prose with strong imagery, which completely refrains from accusatory or lachrymose tones, she cleverly reflects on the expulsion from her childhood language and the appropriation of her new ‘mother tongue.’ In this new language, she has achieved an exceedingly remarkable feat.”