Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About the Book
Sascha Naimann was born in Moscow, but now lives in Berlin with her two younger siblings and, until recently, her
mother. She is precocious, independent, street-wise, and, since her stepfather murdered her mother several months
ago, an orphan. Unlike most of her companions, she doesn't dream of escaping from the tough housing project
where they live. Sascha's dreams are different: she longs to write a novel about her beautiful but naïve mother and
she wants to end the life of Vadim, the man who brutally murdered her.
Sascha's story is that of a young woman
consumed by two competing impulses, one celebrative and redemptive, the other murderous. In a voice that is
candid and self-confident, at times childlike and at others all too mature, Sascha relates the struggle between those
forces that can destroy us, and those that lead us out of sorrow and pain back to life.
"I thought I was already old "
Sascha is as if torn between adulthood and what remains of her
childhood. Caught in a moment balanced between youth and maturity,
Sascha is perhaps not so different from others her age. While an
American seventeen-year-old may be forced to drop out of school and
provide for his family, an Israeli teen prepares to sacrifice two years of
her life to the army, and in many parts of the world young people are
forced to face the horrors of war, the tribulations of social unrest, or
the damages wrought by domestic violence, both physical and
When does a child become an adult? And does this passage from
childhood and adulthood occur more or less at the same age despite one's
circumstances? Can Broken Glass Park be described as a coming-of-age novel?
Can childhood survive difficult and damaging experiences, or do these necessarily
make of one an adult? Does preserving a child's innocence necessarily mean shielding
him or her from life's dark side? What are the effects of a childhood cut short?
Her mistress's voice.
Much of the success of Broken Glass Park has been attributed to the first
person narrator's intoxicating and compelling voice. What makes this
voice so distinctive and appealing? Are we witness to an act of literary ventriloquism
or do you think that main character's voice probably is that of the author herself?
Family they'll %&§£ you up!
How accurate a picture of family life, albeit it a tragic one, is Bronsky's Broken Glass Park? Sascha loves her mother deeply, but is also furious with her
for what she sees as her mother's stupidity. Has Sascha made peace with the
ghost of her mother by the end of the novel?
"Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are."
Delia Lloyd writes in her Huffington Post review of The Elegance of the
Hedgehog (Europa 2008), "Growing up is about being open to change,"
and maturity is found when you discover "that something you thought
was closed off to you is actually within reach." Does Broken Glass Park depict this kind of gathering of strength? Does adulthood bring maturity, or are the
two things different? Do you agree with Lloyd's description of maturity: not the
death of innocence and purity, but a gathering of the strength necessary to change and
to reach for what you want?
"I still love her. I wish I could tell her. I'm writing her a letter I'm ashamed to face my children. I'm also terribly
sorry for the young man who also had to die."Vadim (p. 51) In the last chapter of the book, Sascha sees among
Vadim's belongings photos of her mother, her siblings, and herself. Is Vadim sincere in his love, shame and regret? Is it
possible that he has reformed? Or is a bad egg always a bad egg? How do you feel about prison changes of heart?
"A friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod "
We are introduced to Anna on the first page of the book and given
the idea that there is intimacy and friendship between her and Sascha.
By the end of the book, however, it becomes clear that Anna is just
another character in the Emerald roster. Does Sascha have any true
connections with other people? Is this the story of a true loner? With whom does
she have the most meaningful relationship?
What is normal?
Broken Glass Park is unique in that it employs no stock characters;
each character is instead distinctive and struggles with his or her own
individual demons. Sascha's struggle bears the name Vadim, and is
naturally the struggle that receives the most attention in the book.
But closer examination reveals that every character has his own
version of Vadim. Jobst-Ulrich Brandt, in his review of Broken Glass Park published in Focus (Germany), wrote that Alina Bronsky had
achieved her goal of writing a story that was "rooted in life." Does
characters' refusal to be type-cast, to conform to sterotypes and/or archetypes make
forming conslusions about their stories difficult? Is there such a thing as a
"normal" literary character? What is normal?
"I mean, we've already established you're not into sex and drugs."
Throughout Broken Glass Park, Sascha places, and finds herself, in
situations where sex is overwhelmingly present. Each sexually
charged event is both similar to the others, and fundamentally
different; their unusual nature, same but different, invites the reader
to find a common thread that connects the episodes. How does Sascha
see sex, and how does she use it?
City Within a City
Another seemingly prominent theme is that of the clash of cultures;
in this book, it is the Russians versus the Germans. The Emerald is
Berlin's own Little Russia. The tenants of the Emerald, such as Maria,
see it as a havena retreat back into what is comfortable. They do
not go out; they do not learn the language. The physical distance a
character travels from the Emerald is directly proportionate to his or
her willingness to merge with new surroundings. How is this comparable
to the situation in other urban immigrant centers? Are there characteristics of
Bronsky's portrait of Russians in Germany that are specific to that context, or could her portrait of an immigrant "ghetto" apply to any urban
immigrant community? Is the desire among immigrants to aggregate in specific neighborhoods, to stick together, more a form of selfprotection
or of denial?
The Emerald Scent
In his conversation with Sascha, young Volker asserts that the
Russians are degenerates who will delete themselves by drinking
themselves to death, killing each other, or rotting in prison. Is there a
real tendency towards self-destruction among immigrant communities? With
reference to the previous question, how are we inclined to feel towards the
immigrant populations in our country, and how do we view "their"
This is the End
Revenge is (bitter) sweet
What is Sascha's mental response to the news about Volker that reaches her at
the book's conclusion? Does Sascha get her revenge? For much of her life, she
has been focused on two things: killing Vadim and writing her
mother's story. Does the denouement grant her a full release from her
obsessions? Is she free now to want something out of life for herself?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Europa Editions.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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