A whole life by Robert Seethaler

A Whole life by Robert Seethaler

Austrian fiction

Original title – Ein ganzes Leben

Translator – Charlotte Collins

Source – Library book

Every year on the Old IFFP and now on the first man booker there is a book on the list that I hadn’t heard of and a writer that is new to me and this was this years book. Robert Seethaler is an austrian writer, the german wiki page says he has sight problems so went to a school for the blind. Then drama school , he is an actor as well as a scriptwriter. He has also written five novels this is his fifth novel.His first to be translated . I am pleased to see his fourth novel The tobacconist is in the pipeline to be translated.

 In 1910 a school was built in the village, and every morning, after tending to the livestock, little Egger sat with the other children, in a classroom that stank of fresh tar, learning reading, writing and arithmetic. He learned slowly and as if against a hidden inner resistance, but over time a kind of meaning began to crystallize out of the chaos of dots and dashes on the school blackboard until at last he was able to read books without pictures, which awoke in him ideas and also certain anxieties about the worlds beyond the valley.

I was reminded of the Herzog actor Bruno S a man who never is in time with the world either .

I must admit I am so pleased this was on the longlist as it may have passed me by maybe until,a german lit month. This book is the story of one mans life Andreas Egger a man who arrives and then spend the rest of his life in one small mountain valley. This is the early 20th century and the world Andreas is living in is slowly giving way to the modern world as we see through his eyes bit by bit his life but the world he lives in getting to grips with the modern world. From his arrival to work on his uncles farm where he first met the woman he loves over time Marie but this is a love that will never be.So as Andreas First build cable cars, then help electricity then the war take him away from the farm and the valley he always come back to the world he is meant to be in. As much as he tried to escape .

That was in the late fifties. It was only much later, in the summer of 1969, that Egger had a second encounter with the television – which in most households by then already constituted the central focus and primary purpose of the evening family gathering – that made a profound impression on him, albeit in an entirely different way. This time he was sitting with almost a hundred and fifty other villages in the assembly room of the new parish hall, watching two young americans walk on the moon for the first time.

A world no gone without tv or wanting to see a tv Eggger is really a man out of time in his valley .

I must admit I loved this book  it is a really pretty gem. I was reminded of  one of my favourite books Stones in a landslide Andreas life and the way he lives in the valley that is sort of out of time with the world around them remind me of the world in Stones in a landslide. I also pictured this in a way as being a lost script for a Werner  Herzog film on the other hand Andreas is a simple man like most of the classic roles in the 70’s Herzog films, a man who has the world against him in the way like the classic Bruno S films  Herzog made . A beautiful world of the valley is like quicksand slowly killing the man but not just the man but also his spirit is slowly dragged into the ground of the valley.As for man booker I feel the simple sparse nature of the narrative that as the Irish times review saaid remind that review of Stoner as for me I felt this is a better book than Stoner which I may be the one person that felt stoner was like a  afternoon film of one mans life. No egger is a character you believe in he is like a man in the background of Heidi brought to the fore.

Have you read this book ?

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Caroline
    Mar 17, 2016 @ 12:49:57

    I started to review it this morning and might still do it. I wish I felt the like you. I seem to be the only one who didn’t like this.


  2. Trackback: On Robert Seethaler’s Ein ganzes Leben – A Whole Life (2013) | Beauty is a Sleeping Cat
  3. Jonathan
    Mar 17, 2016 @ 13:51:35

    Now you mention it, it does sound a bit like a Herzog film. I’ll have to get this book soon.


  4. JacquiWine
    Mar 17, 2016 @ 14:38:34

    Lovely review, Stu. I bought a copy earlier this year after a friend had recommended it to me. It sounds just my type of thing. Have you seen the new Paolo Sorrentino film, Youth? I was surprised to see Seethaler’s name in the credits list – he plays a mountain climber in a couple of the scenes with Rachel Weisz.


  5. A Little Blog of Books
    Mar 17, 2016 @ 21:42:20

    Glad to hear you enjoyed it – this one is next on my list before I tackle A Strangeness in my Mind.


  6. roughghosts
    Mar 18, 2016 @ 00:00:55

    I had not heard of this until the longlist announcement but it sounds like it would be right up my alley (and I am, like you, less enamoured with Stoner than many).


  7. Travellin Penguin
    Mar 18, 2016 @ 10:16:38

    Our book group read this last month. One person didn’t appreciate it but the other then loved it. I thought it was brilliant and appreciated the info you added about the author’s personal life. I look forward to the next one that will be translated. Good review.


  8. Deepika Ramesh
    Mar 19, 2016 @ 10:17:04

    Wonderful review. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I intend to read it next month.


  9. Edith LaGraziana
    Mar 19, 2016 @ 18:27:41

    Amazing to get to know an Austrian novel through the review of an English translation! After all I’m Austrian… and yet, I never ever heard the name of Robert Seethaler. Of course, there are an awful many writers here in my country and it’s impossible to know them all. Thanks four your review anyways. The plot reminds me of Franz Innerhofer’s “Beautiful Days” (review on my blog) and Peter Truschner’s “Serpent’s Child” that I read just recently – both Austrian authors too.


  10. 1streading
    Mar 20, 2016 @ 20:42:46

    I’m surprised you hadn’t seen this, Stu,as Waterstones were promoting it heavily. I agree with you that the valley is killing Egger’s spirit – but do you think that’s how the author sees it?
    As for the Stoner comparison, that’s entirely advertising – I can’t see they have anything in common.


  11. Trackback: 2016 Man Booker International Longlist | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
  12. Trackback: The tobacconist by Robert Seethaler | Winstonsdad's Blog

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March 2016


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