A Whole Life
Robert Seethaler, Charlotte Collins
Shortlisted for the Booker International Prize.
Andreas lives his whole life in the Austrian Alps, where he arrives as a young boy taken in by a farming family. He is a man of very few words and so, when he falls in love with Marie, he doesn’t ask for her hand in marriage, but instead has some of his friends light her name at dusk across the mountain. When Marie dies in an avalanche, pregnant with their first child, Andreas’ heart is broken. He leaves his valley just once more, to fight in WWII – where he is taken prisoner in the Caucasus – and returns to find that modernity has reached his remote haven . . .
Like John Williams’ Stoner or Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams, A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler is a tender book about finding dignity and beauty in solitude. An exquisite novel about a simple life, it has already demonstrated its power to move thousands of readers with a message of solace and truth. It looks at the moments, big and small, that make us what we are.
Robert Seethaler's quietly mesmerizing novel - elemental in both tone and subject - shows what joy and nobility can be found in a life of hardship, patience and bereavement. It is at once heart-rending and heart-warming. A Whole Life, for all its gentleness, is a very powerful book. -- Jim Crace Against the backdrop of a literary world that often seems crowded with novels yelling "Look at me!", it's refreshing to read a story marked by quiet, concentrated attention . . . Seethaler's scenes of mountain life are realised with spare, almost surreally vivid images. But what is perhaps most remarkable about this remarkable novel is the way that it continually weaves past, present and future into a single fabric. -- Adam Lively * Sunday Times * Robert Seethaler's novel is, like its hero, short on words but in its 150 pages manages to do exactly what it says on the tin: embrace a whole life... It's an unremarked existence, told in simple prose, of a simple man that magically captures the universal in all our lives. A slim masterpiece. * Daily Mail * Now another of these special, calm narratives that penetrate the joy and grief, the tiny comforts of being alive and the experiences which shape an individual has arrived . . . As haunting and as spare as Stoner. It has been sensitively and astutely translated into English by Charlotte Collins . . . a gentle, tender work devoid of sentimentality yet so evocative and moving . . . No praise is too high for A Whole Life. Its daunting beauty lingers. This is a profound, wise and humane novel that no reader will forget. -- Eileen Battersby * Irish Times * Seethaler renders a life at once ordinary and exquisite, exploring the vagaries of solitude with a gentle humility. * Times Literary Supplement * It takes barely two hours to read it but would take a lifetime to forget. -- Graham Robb Genuine wisdom and restrained poetry . . . Charlotte Collins' translation is a great triumph. * Sunday Telegraph * From its first sentence, Seethaler grips you with a quiet matter-of-factness as he delineates with a suitably spare beauty the life of woodsman Andreas Egger. * Independent on Sunday * A perfect, warm, moving antidote to, well, pretty much everything that's going on in the world . . . That this gentle-paced tale encompasses such a large timespan in the space of barely 160 pages is testament to Seethaler's pared-down writing style, beautifully rendered by the book's translator Charlotte Collins. * New European *
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