Robert Seethaler tells the story of cable car worker Andreas Egger – a man out of time who enjoys happiness, suffers sorrow, and in the end comes to look back with amazement on the years that have made up his life. It’s a simple and deeply moving story – the story of a lifetime.
When Andreas Egger comes to the valley where he will spend the rest of his life he is about four years old, but no one knows for sure. Stocker the mountain farmer reluctantly takes him on, and Egger grows up to be an accomplished farmhand; all that remains of his origins is a vestigial recollection of warmth. As a young man, he joins a team of labourers to build one of the first mountain railways — bringing light and noise to the valley along
with electricity. Then comes the day when he witnesses old Hörnerhannes narrowly evade death and sets eyes for the first time on Marie, the love of his life. But he will lose her soon and they won’t be reunited until many years later, when the world beyond the valley has long changed and Egger is facing his final journey.
Like John Williams' Stoner or Denis Johnson's Train Dreams, A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler 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.
'Heart-rending and heart-warming . . . for all its gentleness, a very powerful novel', Jim Crace
"Readers will discover in [Seethaler's] contained prose a vehicle for keen insight and observation." "Publishers Weekly"
"The book's prose has a directness and detail that helps set off the moments of genuine wisdom and restrained poetry . . . It is at this point that you realize why the novel should be doing so well in Germany, and why it is so urgent for the rest of us: it can guide its readers to make the best of their lives, however they turn out." "Sunday Telegraph"
"Against the backdrop of a literary world that often seems crowded with novels yelling 'Look at me!, ' it's refreshing to read a story marked by quiet, concentrated attention . . . Deeply moving." "Sunday Times"
"Seethaler shows that for even the most ordinary people, life is an extraordinary adventure and he does so tenderly and memorably." "Mail on Sunday""
A tender and moving look at the human capacity for adaptation, Seethaler's understated tale is a
reminder that joy can be found in daily toils and simple pleasures. Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist
Mr. Seethaler has produced a compact work of grace and beauty. Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
A Whole Life is a provocatively ambitious title for this spare, novella-length work . . . Flecked with profundity [and] dark humor." John Williams, The New York Times