Sunday, 23 July 2017

A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler

"You can buy a man's hours off him, you can steal his days from him, or you can rob him of his whole life, but no-one can take away from any man so much as a single moment"

As I sit and write this blog post I'm enjoying every bite of a surprisingly well turned out courgette and orange cake that I rustled up yesterday taking advantage of the generosity of my lovely neighbours and their over yielding allotment. Living beside kind people who routinely post vegetables through your letter box is nothing but a blessing and it got me thinking; what treasures could I pass over the garden wall? Until the day as I master pickling, home brew or jam making the best I can offer is a pre-loved paper-back and this week I have just the thing.

A Whole Life (Ein Ganzes Lieben) by Robert Seethaler was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize a few years back but I didn't discover it myself until the release of follow up novel The Tobacconist. I saw Robert Seethaler read from both books at an event organised by the Austrian Cultural Council a few months back and picked up a copy a couple of days later.

A Whole Life is a short novel at only 162 pages but at the end you'll remember a far longer work so rich, though succinct, is the prose and so epic the storytelling. The life in question is that of Andreas Egger, a man of very few words but boundless love and respect for the mountain on which he lives. His whole life is literally played out in this Alpine setting from childhood to an early career constructing cable cars through to war, internment by the Russians and beyond.

Seethaler writes poetically and poignantly about love, loss and tragedy but Andreas Egger is remarkable not so much for what he endures but for the way he copes with the hand he's dealt. Egger simply gets on with life, rolls with the punches and lets the mountain determine his destiny.

As an older man Egger takes on the role of mountain guide; "If you like the mountains, I'm your man" reads his local ad. Escorting small groups along the mountain trails Egger makes sense of everything that he's experienced over the years. An Ordnance Survey map of the heart.

A Whole Life is a beautiful book that needs to be read. The least I can do is pass my copy over the wall with a little note from me; "You've just found your next read"

I read this novel mostly on the train into Marylebone.

A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler and translated by Charlotte Collins published by Picador, 162 pages.     

Agree with my review? Comment and share to join the discussion #readmorebooks

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