Nominated by:

Zentral- u. Landesbibliothek Berlin, Germany

Stadtbibliothek Bremen, Germany

Münchner Stadtbibliothek, Germany

Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Switzerland

Dublin City Public Libraries, Ireland

Publisher of nominated edition:

Granta Books, UK

New Directions Publishing Corporation, USA

The End of Days

Jenny Erpenbeck      

Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky

2016 Shortlist

Judges’ comments

Jenny Erpenbeck’s The End of Days is a beautiful meditation on the different possible lives of one woman, born a Jewish child in the Hapsburg Empire. Each section or ‘book’ details the path her life could have taken, had history and fate not intervened. The prose is spare and moving; the structure fascinating – all echoes and repeated motifs down the troubled twentieth century. Erpenbeck deftly weaves an understanding of how power and politics play out in an individual life as the story moves to Vienna, to Stalinist Moscow and finally East Germany both pre-and post Wall. It is an intense study of guilt, grief, love and destiny both collective and personal. By the end of this concise novel we have lived through several lives – all distinctive yet interconnected. We have experienced something profound and important. Susan Bernofsky’s translation skilfully conveys Erpenbeck’s vision: to take us into the dark places and shed light there in unexpected ways.

About the Book

‘We are born and we die – but many things could happen in between. Which life do we end up living?’

From one of the most daring voices in European fiction, this is a story of the twentieth century traced through the various possible lives of one woman. She is a baby who suffocates in the cradle. Or she lives to become an adult and dies beloved. Or she dies betrayed. Or her memory is honoured. Or she is forgotten by everyone. Moving from a small Galician town at the turn of the century, through pre-war Vienna and Stalin’s Moscow to present-day Berlin, Jenny Erpenbeck hones in on the moments when life follows a particular branch and ‘fate’ suddenly emerges from the sly interplay between history, character and pure chance.

Fully alive with ambition and ideas, The End of Days is a novel that pulls apart the threads of destiny and allows us to see the present and the past anew.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Jenny Erpenbeck was born in East Berlin in 1967. She has worked on opera and musical productions and her fiction has been translated worldwide. She is the author of The Old Child & The Book of Words, and Visitation.

Librarians’ Comments

“What if…” – this is the central question in Jenny Erpenbeck’s new novel The End of Days. The female protagonist lives and dies five times and on the basis of these five alternative life courses the reader is taken along on a journey through nearly 100 years of German history. A cleverly constructed plot and a stylistic masterpiece!

How long will the new born child’s life be? Who are we, in the moment of truth? Who will mourn for us? Jenny Erpenbeck takes us on her journey through the many lives that can be contained in one single life. An intoxicating story of the twentieth century told through the different lives of one woman. The book was translated to perfection by Susan Bernofsky.

This musical novel is a novel about time, destiny and possibilities – alternatives to the inevitable. It outlines different versions of a woman’s life and dying. By doing so, it traces a small Galician town throughout the 20th century, starting at the turn of the century and following the town through pre-war Vienna, Stalin’s Moscow to present-day East Berlin.

Erpenbeck builds her novel around the fundamental question: What if..? and tells a story of the twienth century traced through the various possible lives of one woman. Forcefully written, a novel like a musical arrangement.

Related Entries