Not A Novel is a collection of the sort of pieces – some profound, others incidental – that naturally arise as part of a professional writing career. Many are concerned with growing up in the GDR and the experience of having the society that formed your worldview disappear…. At a time when former East German states vote in increasing numbers for the right-wing party Alternativ für Deutschland, Erpenbeck’s voice is all the more important for its ability to draw attention to a parallel world, one that sought to call a new future into being, rather than harking back to a darker past.
Times Literary Supplement, Peter Frederick Matthews

A collection of highly personal and poetic essays about life and literature by the renowned German writer Jenny Erpenbeck

Included in the Holiday Catalog.

Not a Novel

by Jenny Erpenbeck

Translated from the German by Kurt Beals

Jenny Erpenbeck’s highly acclaimed novel Go, Went, Gone was a New York Times notable book and launched one of Germany’s most admired writers into the American spotlight. In the New Yorker, James Wood wrote: “When Erpenbeck wins the Nobel Prize in a few years, I suspect that this novel will be cited.”

On the heels of this literary breakthrough comes Not a Novel, a book of personal, profound, often humorous meditations and reflections. Erpenbeck writes, “With this collection of texts, I am looking back for the first time at many years of my life, at the thoughts that filled my life from day to day.”

Starting with her childhood days in East Berlin (“I start with my life as a schoolgirl … my own conscious life begins at the same time as the socialist life of Leipziger Strasse”), Not a Novel provides a glimpse of growing up in the GDR and of what it was like to be twenty-two when the wall collapsed; it takes us through Erpenbeck’s early adult years, working in a bakery after immersing herself in the worlds of music, theater, and opera, and ultimately discovering her path as a writer.

There are lively essays about her literary influences (Thomas Bernhard, the Brothers Grimm, Kafka, and Thomas Mann), unforgettable reflections on the forces at work in her novels (including history, silence, and time), and scathing commentaries on the dire situation of America and Europe today. “Why do we still hear laments for the Germans who died attempting to flee over the wall, but almost none for the countless refugees who have drowned in the Mediterranean in recent years, turning the sea into a giant grave?”

With deep insight and warm intelligence, Jenny Erpenbeck provides us with a collection of unforgettable essays that take us into the heart and mind of “one of the finest and most exciting writers alive” (Michel Faber).

Editions: Paperback

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Paperback (published September 1, 2020)

ISBN
9780811229326
Price US
16.95
Trim Size
5x8
Page Count
212

Ebook

ISBN
9780811229333

Jenny Erpenbeck

German writer and former opera director

Not A Novel is a collection of the sort of pieces – some profound, others incidental – that naturally arise as part of a professional writing career. Many are concerned with growing up in the GDR and the experience of having the society that formed your worldview disappear…. At a time when former East German states vote in increasing numbers for the right-wing party Alternativ für Deutschland, Erpenbeck’s voice is all the more important for its ability to draw attention to a parallel world, one that sought to call a new future into being, rather than harking back to a darker past.
Times Literary Supplement, Peter Frederick Matthews
In this attentive prose, in her desire to map stories that are suppressed and rhythms of the heart that keep being forgotten, Erpenbeck is one of the most vital writers working today.
The Guardian, Natasha Walter
Erpenbeck has emerged as one of the most original voices in contemporary European letters. Not a Novel is not just autobiographical. There are fascinating reflections on German literature — Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Hans Fallada, Thomas Mann and Walter Kempowski’s war novel All for Nothing — as well as exquisite descriptions of the writing process.
Financial Times, Guy Chazan
To read Erpenbeck’s musings on the majesty of folk tales or on life in the shadow of the Stasi is to begin to understand the forces that propelled her to become the deft, fearless author she is today.
New Statesman
Erpenbeck’s anger is palpable and this collection reveals both her creative process and the injustices that drive her to write.
The Guardian, Lucy Popescu
Erpenbeck is a virtuoso whose eye for detail depends entirely on a refusal to write what’s easy or straightforward. It’s a perspective conditioned by losing one identity and watching an entire country disappear in the name of freedom.
The Observer, Lauren LeBlanc
The texts collected here come from many eras and many moments and seem to fall around the reader like bits of glass….There is something terrifying but liberating about seeing a person construct herself and her history in a way that feels so opposite to everything we are told.
The Paris Review, Hasan Altaf
These essays, lectures and musings from the ever-elegant German writer Jenny Erpenbeck cover life, art and society. Jumbled together are thoughts on language, history and freedom, a moving piece – in the shape of an inventory – on her mother’s death, and finally, on Germany’s treatment of refugees. Clear-eyed and perceptive, Erpenbeck’s writing packs an emotive punch.
Tatler
One of the pleasures of reading Not a Novel is just that—it’s not a novel. Each piece stands on its own and is dense and lucid, demanding pause and reflection….Her words stay with you.
World Literature Today
This collection of essays, memoirs and critical pieces forms an intellectual biography of Europe’s most history-obsessed writer. Beginning with her childhood in East Berlin in the early ‘60s and ‘70s, the book moves in concentric circles, from the intimate and understatedly moving to the moment History collides with her life. A powerful voice singing the past into the present’s melody.
—John Freeman, Lithub
An ideal introduction to the life and work of an exceptional artist.
Kirkus
As this collection makes clear, hers is a life (and writing-life) well worth examining.
The Complete Review
The impact is of a master at work—Erpenbeck ought to be considered for the Nobel.
—John Domini, The Washington Post
The most profound, intelligent, humane, and important writer of our times. Forget the nombrilistes writing about themselves who have taken up so much of the conversational space. Jenny Erpenbeck is where it is all happening. She watches, notes, records, and interprets the world, not just herself in it. This is real literature: alive, vital, necessary, witty, beautiful, transformative.
—Neel Mukherjee
Fearless, playful, incisive. Erpenbeck is unique.
—Rachel Seiffert
Wonderful, elegant, and exhilarating—ferocious as well as virtuosic.
—Deborah Eisenberg, The New York Review of Books
Her restrained, unvarnished prose is overwhelming.
—Nicole Krauss
Jenny Erpenbeck’s writing is a lure that leads us—off-center, as one travels into a vortex—into the most haunted and haunting territory.
—Anne Michaels, Author of Fugitive Pieces