The Opposite of a Person by Lieke Marsman review – climate and Copernicus meet in the Italian Alps

The impact of blowing up a hydroelectric dam, the limits of identity politics and the Renaissance polymath feature in the Dutch writer’s funny and clever first novel

The Dutch writer Lieke Marsman has established herself in this country as a poet of exceptional skill with her collection The Following Scan Will Last Five Minutes (2019), which was inspired by her diagnosis of a rare form of bone cancer at the age of 27.

Her debut novel, The Opposite of a Person, predates that collection, but is appearing in English now, translated, like her poetry, with empathy and clarity by Sophie Collins. It feels in a sense like the most modern book you could read: not only is the ostensible subject timely (climate change), but it also falls into a number of current literary trends.

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