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by Ariane Koch, translated from the German by Damion Searls

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“I don’t see my writing as chronological or classically narrative, but as spatial—a kind of architecture. I keep adding rooms, and readers can take different paths through the rooms,” writes Ariane Koch of Overstaying, her anarchically comic debut. Koch’s narrator is an impudent young woman, a contemporary Bartleby living alone in her parents’ old house in the small hometown she hates but can’t bring herself to leave.

When a visitor turns up, promisingly new, she takes him in, and instantly her life revolves around him. Yet it is hard to tell what, exactly, this visitor is. A mooch, a lover, an absence, a presence—possibly a pet? Mostly, he is a set of contradictions, an occasion for Koch’s wild imagination to take readers in brilliant and unexpected directions.

Winner of the aspekte Prize, the most prestigious German prize for debut fiction, Swiss playwright and visual artist Ariane Koch’s Overstaying is an absurdist tour de force.

Additional Book Information

Series: Dorothy
ISBN: 9781948980197
Pages: 176
Publication Date:


Overstaying is a short novel of huge ambition. Much of its beauty lies in its arresting use of language, the unruly juxtaposition of images that ought not to cohere but somehow do, jolting us from our complacency towards a more vital understanding of the world. Damion Searls’s translation from the Swiss German is lucid and precise. . . . Hypnotic and masterly, this is a book that creates its own world, forcing us to look at our own through altered eyes.
—Nina Allan, Times Literary Supplement

So many novels have been written about immigration . . . that you might think there’s nothing more to say. But then you read Overstaying by Ariane Koch. A winner of Germany’s Aspekte Literature Prize and a Swiss Literature Prize in its original German, the novel takes these themes and transforms them into a strange, brilliant fever dream.
—Niamh Donnelly, Financial Times

[A] bizarre and beautiful psychodrama about hospitality, control, and domination.... Koch’s novel seems to take place half in the ‘real world’ and half in a Leonora Carrington painting... Novels like this aren’t about plot, per se, but Koch develops such an engaging offbeat dynamic, and ends each short chapter on such a deliciously provocative flourish—aided by Damion Searls’s supple translation—that you race through, desperate to find out the next small act of cruelty of indignity.
—Luke Kennard, The Telegraph

Overstaying has the makings of a classic.
Die Zeit

A brave debut, remarkable in its literary aesthetics.
—Christian Metz, Deutschlandfunk

In Koch’s light, precise and yet dreamlike language, scenes emerge that—as in the theater of the absurd—seem at first to make no sense at all and then a tremendous amount of sense. Derrida, writing about hospitality, stated that absolute hospitality means opening one’s home: to give place not only to the stranger, but also to the unknown, to the other, without expecting reciprocity. Koch skillfully varies this postmodern utopia of opening oneself to the unknown in her impressive literary debut.
aspekte Prize Committee

Bewitching . . . and consistently sharp. Fans of dreamy and mysterious fiction like Claire-Louise Bennett’s Pond will devour this.
Publishers Weekly

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