The Applicantby Nazlı Koca
A singular debut from “an important and radical new literary voice” (Elif Batuman), The Applicant explores with wit and brevity what it means to be an immigrant, woman, and emerging writer
It’s 2017 and Leyla, a Turkish twenty-something living in Berlin is scrubbing toilets at an Alice in Wonderland-themed hostel after failing her thesis, losing her student visa, and suing her German university in a Kafkaesque attempt to reverse her failure.
Increasingly distant from what used to be at arm’s reach—writerly ambitions, tight knit friendships, a place to call home—Leyla attempts to find solace in the techno beats of Berlin’s nightlife, with little success. Right as the clock winds down on the hold on her visa, Leyla meets a conservative Swedish tourist and—against her political convictions and better judgment—begins to fall in love, or something like it. Will she accept an IKEA life with the Volvo salesman and relinquish her creative dreams, or return to Turkey to her mother and sister, codependent and enmeshed, her father’s ghost still haunting their lives?
While she waits for the German court’s verdict on her future, in the pages of her diary, Leyla begins to parse her unresolved past and untenable present. An indelible character at once precocious and imperiled, Leyla gives voice to the working-class and immigrant struggle to find safety, self-expression, and happiness. The Applicant is an extraordinary dissection of a liminal life between borders and identities, an original and darkly funny debut.
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“Told through tense, sardonic journal entries that are as cutting as they are tender, The Applicant sheds light on the grim reality of pursuing the life of an artist.”—Vulture, “30 Books We Can’t Wait to Read This Winter”
“The Applicant is a stunning debut, marking the arrival of an important and radical new literary voice. Nazlı Koca’s narrator, Leyla, a Turkish ex-student desperate to extend her stay in Berlin, ruthlessly interrogates the unspoken compromises, hypocrisies, double standards, and hierarchies that govern life in what can broadly be called the western world. An exhilarating and sometimes alarming tour of a rarely described stratum of migrants, workers, and ex-students. Electric, witty, compulsively readable, humane, and excoriating. A book I won’t forget.”—Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot and Either/Or
“Hilarious and troubling in equal parts, The Applicant is an unforgettable meditation on sex, censorship, displacement, and loss. Nazlı Koca captures the cacophonous rhythms of an emotionally eviscerated life with verve and humor.”—Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, author of Call Me Zebra
“An exuberant debut from Nazlı Koca, who has something to declare about both the boldness and the fear gripping the young navigating the cruel farce of our modern world. A smart mix of fury and wit, altogether timely about the chasms of class and identity, the pull of family and the search for self.”—Manuel Muñoz, author of The Consequences
“The Applicant is an exceptional novel, part kunstroman, part bildungsroman, part newcomer’s guide to the S-Bahn and U-Bahn of art, work, art work, sex work, drugs and immigration. Like Acker, Koca is her own (displaced) Dante, guiding herself and her readers through a lively urban nocturne constellated with literature and alight with that most vital and phenomenal of currents: youth.”—Joyelle McSweeney, author of Toxicon and Arachne
“Nazli Koca has the rare gift of making you laugh and weep within a page. Bold and original, the writing pulses with techno, soap operas, and late-night banter. But like the silence between two beats, its profound wisdom and unbearable tenderness reverberate. Quietly devastating, The Applicant left me with the most wonderful ache.”—Sanaë Lemoine, author of The Margot Affair
“The Applicant is brilliant in its mordant and moving portrait of Leyla, a Turkish immigrant in Berlin who cleans a hostel for pay, parties by night, and yearns for the freedom to write every moment in between. Shining a critically frank light on citizenship, censorship, belonging and loss, Nazlı Koca writes masterfully about a young artist’s sheer will to live and to write despite the monumental cost of living as a migrant in the Western world. I inhaled this novel like its pages were air to breathe.”—Mina Seçkin, author of The Four Humors