An up close image of Shida Bazyar

Can Shida Bazyar’s Sisters in Arms help navigate Germany’s far-right problem?

The German-Iranian author unpacked the themes of her latest book, Sisters in Arms, in a literary discussion at Germany’s cultural institute in South Kensington at the start of February.

On a drizzly evening on February 8, literature enthusiasts huddled into the Goethe-Institut London’s library to traverse award-winning Shida Bazyar’s second novel Sisters in Arms (2021) and its timely themes.

Long-listed for the German Book Prize in 2021, Sisters in Arms – Drei Kameradinnen in German – illuminates the unfaltering friendship between Hani, Kasih, and Saya as they grapple daily with systemic racism, sexism and the looming rise of Germany’s far-right. 

The story opens with a punchy tabloid-style article about the arson of a residential building that leaves many dead – the fire is pinned on one of the protagonists Saya, accusing her of having radical Islamic beliefs.

Her friend and narrator of the book Kasih proceeds to tell the “truth” about how things really transpired – Saya is proven innocent and a neo-Nazi group goes to trial – leaving the reader with lingering questions about discrimination and justice.

New Books in German, whose jury panel recommends German literature to be translated into English, said: “Sisters in Arms is an immersive and thought-provoking read with a strong plot and relatable characters, which explores urgent contemporary questions around racism and sexism in society.”

The novel was translated into English in October 2023 by Ruth Martin for Scribe Publications.

Watch the video below for interviews with Bazyar, Martin and the director of New Books in German.

Featured image credit: Shida Bazyar

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