The old child by Jenny Erpenbeck

the old child



Jenny is the daughter of a german philosopher and arab translator ,she has written a number of novels and plays .She has also won several german book prizes ,this book in its english translation was on the Independent foreign fiction long list in 2007 .she also took over Nicola Krauss fortnightly  pieces in  the german paper Frankfurter allgemaine  zeitung . this book was here first ,german title Geschichte vom alten kind (story from old child ).This book was also a bedside read of Johnathan safran Foer on the book show . 

The book – 

We meet an unnamed small girl who is wandering round bemused in the bombed out shell of Dresden ,she is taken to a school where she is given new clothes and feed ,as the book starts to unwind we find out bit by bit ,a little more about the girl as she starts to remember who and where she came from ,at first she seems a little backwards in classes copying what other pupils do and not being a individual just sitting in the group  ,she is also a  target of the boys who take her to a quiet place and do what young boys do from time to time ,as the tale unfolds every thing isn’t as it at first appeared .may be this girl isn’t as young and naive as she at first appeared . 

The girl has a wide blotchy face that looks like a moon with shadows on it ,she has broad shoulders like a swimmer ‘s , and from the shoulders downward appears to have been hewn from a single block of wood ,there is neither a swelling where the breasts should be nor an indentation at the waists .The legs are sturdy ,the hands as well ,and nonetheless the girl does not make a convincing impression … 

a description of the girl from the old child . 


The writing is wonderfully descriptive from Erpenbeck ,you can picture this girl as she enters the school and her true story starts to unfold ,the book is only just over a hundred pages long and can be read in a day very easily .the story is  a parable on the fall of the wall and german unification the child is the embodiment of east germany lacking a individual personality and unuse to freedom ,as the story progresses we see how the child blossoms after she is given the right to be free .This story stands in the grand german tradition of parables and you can see her fathers influence as a philosopher . 

the score – 

owl moth

The owl moth at distance can appear an owl and close up a moth ,bit like the double edge of this story and moths fly quickly ,like this book when you read it . 


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. amymckie
    Jun 01, 2010 @ 23:25:49

    Sounds fascinating! Definitely going on the wish list 🙂 Also, love the owl moth 🙂


    • winstonsdad
      Jun 01, 2010 @ 23:30:04

      thanks amy ,yes a nice slim book think can get copies with other stories as well ,this was a stand alone one thou ,all the best stu


  2. Iris
    Jun 02, 2010 @ 08:01:13

    I think I mention that I love your new way of grading a book every time I read a review of you, but I am amazed by how well it works each time.

    Also, the book sounds great. Another wishlist add.


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June 2010


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