The Opposite of a Person | Lieke Marsman

The Opposite of a Person


Translated from Dutch by Sophie Collins

Published April 2022
ISBN: 9781914198106
Format: Paperback

Also available as an eBook:


If people were evil, and I wished to be good, then I had to make sure that I was the opposite of a person.

When Ida, a Dutch climatologist, accepts an internship at a climate research institute in the Italian Alps, it means leaving her girlfriend Robin behind in Amsterdam. As she and her new colleagues prepare to demolish a decommissioned hydropower dam, Ida finds herself grappling with love, loneliness and her place in a society unwilling to confront global warming. 

An unflinchingly honest narrative of vulnerability, longing and introspection is disrupted by essays and poems, creating an incisive, witty and devastatingly smart portrait of how we live now. Distilling all our contemporary fears, Marsman examines what we must face head-on if we – individuals, humanity, the world – are to survive. And she asks us: if we are to survive, what is our impetus? For what are we fighting?

Startlingly unique, timely and ultimately deeply moving, The Opposite of a Person is a dazzling, cerebral tour-de-force, a poignant love story and an urgent, unforgettable call to arms. 

‘The author conjures up a refreshing depiction of our experience of global warming as a psychological, as much as natural, phenomenon.’ TLS

‘A moving, insightful novel.’ Monocle

‘Gorgeous . . .  stunning . . . An existentialist, essential story about the world we live in, which explores the complex role and place of us humans in it.’ Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, author of the International Booker Prize-winning The Discomfort of Evening

‘Swirling, stirring, surprising, The Opposite of a Person channels its forked curiosity into asking not only how a person should be, what a society should do, but also what a book can and should accomplish. A novel for the end-times, in the best possible way.’ Polly Barton, author of Fifty Sounds

‘The experience of reading The Opposite of a Person is like walking on shifting ground. It’s unnerving, dynamic, almighty in its force. I was consumed by this book.’ Saba Sams, author of Send Nudes

‘Relentlessly inventive . . . Wry, spirited, troubling and a marker of an intriguing new talent.’ Irish Times

‘A fizzing tale of heartbreak and climate disaster . . . inventive, and excellent . . . bask in its fizzing multiplicity: the narrative is interspliced with poems and script-like dialogue, and stippled with quotes from Kierkegaard, Leopardi and Naomi Klein.’ Daily Telegraph

‘It feels in a sense like the most modern book you could read . . . Marsman writes powerfully on natural as well as man-made disasters. The essays spliced through the fiction are complex and rewarding and, like the narrative, address the question of belonging, reflecting, for example, on the limits of identity politics.’ Observer

‘It has as much to tell us about navigating modern life as it does about ecological collapse, fusing the contemporary realism of Sally Rooney with the acute awareness of a planet in crisis that charges all climate fiction.’ The Oxonian Review

‘An extraordinary and gripping novel of ideas.’ NRC Handelsblad

‘A surprisingly playful novel . . . Every page is engaging.’ De Groene Amsterdammer