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We find this hall-of-mirrors construction in Uwe Johnson, Peter Handke and others. But Andersch manipulates it with an ease and unpretentiousness that are seductively disorienting, until the reader himself is dissolved into that bittersweet sigh, in equal measure humorous and despairing, that is Efraim's Book

—John Simon, New York Times Book Review

Alfred Andersch

20th century German novelist and journalist

Alfred Andersch (1914–1979) was born in Munich, Germany into a comfortable middle-class life that he soon rejected. He spent six months in the Dachau concentration camp because of his activities as a Communist youth leader in 1933. After World War II, he worked as an editor for several newspapers, a broadcaster, and a freelance writer. He was a founder of Germany’s ’Gruppe 47’ school of experimental fiction, whose members include Heinrich Böll, Günter Grass, and Jokov Lind. Influenced by Sartre and Koestler, Andersch became one of the fathers of humanist plurality in West Germany. From 1955 to 1957 he edited the periodical Texte und Zeichen, in which a great variety of German intellectuals, writers, and poets (e.g., Adorno, Celan, Enzensberger, Heißenbüttel, Grass, Golo Mann, Arno Schmidt, W. Jens, M. Walser) were represented, as well as a handful of foreign writers (e.g., Hemingway, Faulkner, Sartre, and Camus). In 1958 he relinquished his positions and settled in Berzona (Val Onsernone), acquiring Swiss nationality in 1972.

His fiction’s stylistically experimental aesthetic reflects both his refusal to surrender to political ideology, and his interest (spawned by his humanism) in the individual’s social and humanitarian response to the demands of conscience at moments of free choice.

Efraim’s Book

Fiction by Alfred Andersch

translated by Ralph Manheim

Efraim’s Book is the sophisticated, offbeat novel about the peculiar society of post-World-II Berlin. Its hero George Efraim is a Jewish reporter who has fought for the British on the Italian front and lost both parents to Auschwitz. He returns home to Berlin in 1962 for the first time since the war to investigate the wartime disappearance of his editor’s daughter, only to begin writing a novel, which helps him "to embark on a certain arrangement of signs with the help of which I hope to chart my position." Like the great German novels of Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll, Alfred Andersch’s Efraim’s Book grapples with the legacy of World War II and the Holocaust in all its horror and sad humanity. A troubling yet often humorous book, it offers a poignant account of the traumatized German state.

Available: April 01 1994

The Father of a Murderer

Fiction by Alfred Andersch

translated by Leila Vennewitz

The Father of a Murderer takes place in a classroom of the Wittelsbach Gymnasium in 1920s Munich over the course of a single Greek lesson. Headmaster Himmler (the father of Heinrich Himmler) enters the classroom, apparently to observe the students’ progress. However, he soon takes over the lesson himself. Himmler mercilessly tests the boys, but his real purpose is to teach a political lesson to the German youths, and through them to settle scores with their fathers.

Available: April 01 1994