Nominated by:

Stadt:Bibliothek Salzburg, Austria

Stadtbibliothek Bremen, Germany

Stadtbüchereien Düsseldorf, Germany

Cork City Libraries, Ireland

Publisher of nominated edition:

Picador, UK

A Whole Life

Robert Seethaler    

Translated from the original German by Charlotte Collins

Comments from the judges

Ian McEwan has said A Whole Life is “a lovely contemplation of a life in solitude”. Seethaler does this with a simple palette, relying on only two basic elements: a man and a mountain. The mountain is both a cage and a shrine; the man, both a bird and a stone. A heartbreaking opening takes us through almost a century of European history in a little more than one hundred pages. Beauty, intensity and tenderness. In short space, a lot.

About the book

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 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.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Robert Seethaler is an Austrian living in Berlin. He is the bestselling author of four novels, including The Tobacconist, which has sold more than 200,000 copies in Germany, and A Whole Life, which has sold more than 100,000 copies in Germany. He also works as an actor, most recently in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth.

Librarians’ Comments

An unforgettable mesmerizing novel from the bestselling author Robert Seethaler about finding dignity and beauty in solitude. Robert Seethaler writes about the great emotions of an ordinary man who lives his whole life in the Austrian Alps. The book was a top ten bestseller in Germany and was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize.

This exquisite novella tells the story of a hardworking, solitary man in an isolated village in the Austrian Alps. In gentle, pellucid prose, Seethaler manages to convey the intensity with which even the simplest of lives is lived – its tenderness, despair, and moments of extraordinary beauty. Each word is weighed with care, and his descriptions of the natural world are especially vivid. A profoundly moving book.

A deceptively simple and understated story of a solitary and silent man (Andreas) who spends most of his life in the Austrian Alps (except when he fights in WW1 and is subsequently made a POW). Although regarded as an eccentric by his community, nevertheless his dignity and fortitude in dealing with the tragedies in his life endears him to them. Exquisitely told and faithfully translated by Charlotte Collins, it is both heart-rending and uplifting – a quiet masterpiece.

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