Pigeons on the Grass is told over a single day in Munich in 1948. The first new cinemas and insurance offices are opening atop the ruins, Korea and Persia are keeping the world in panic, planes rumble in the sky (but no one looks up), newspaper headlines announce war over oil and atomic bomb tests. Odysseus Cotton, a black man, alights at the station and hires a porter; Emilia sells the last of her jewelry; Philipp gives himself up to despair; with their interracial love affair, Carla Behrend and Washington Price scandalize their neighbors—who still expect gifts of chocolate and coffee; a boy hustles to sell a stray dog; Mr. Edwin, a visiting poet, prepares for a reading; Frau Behrend disowns her daughter; Alexander stars as the Archduke in a new German Super-production; and Susanne seeks out a night to remember. In Michael Hofmann’s words, “in their sum, they are the totality of existence.”
Koeppen spares no one and sees all in this penetrating and intense novel that surveys those who remain, and those who have just arrived, in a damaged society. As inventive as Joyce and as compulsively readable as Dickens, Pigeons on the Grass is a great lost classic.
Koeppen’s prose, as deftly channeled by Hofmann (who acknowledges the ‘perfectly good’ version of 1988 by David Ward), seems to expand and contract to fill the space offered by each consciousness.
—TLS, Dustin Illingworth
A modernist tour of Munich over the course of one eventful day in 1948. The novel’s roving consciousness deliberately blurs the boundaries between the characters’ minds, turning Munich into one large, pulsing brain—exhilarating and original.
—Andrew Martin, Harper’s Magazine
Now available in an inspired new translation, this portrait of despair and endurance amid postwar ruin is nothing less than a miniature masterpiece.
Hofmann’s brilliant translation finds pathos in the characters’ quest for meaning and significance in a world of randomness and chance. Koeppen’s masterwork soars.
—Publishers Weekly (starred)
A kaleidoscopic narrative that follows a disparate cast of characters whose lives accidentally intersect during a single day in Munich, Germany, in 1948. Now available in an inspired new translation, this portrait of despair and endurance amid postwar ruin is nothing less than a miniature masterpiece.
Scathingly beautiful—lyrically inescapable.
Germany’s greatest living writer.
Michael Hofmann has illuminated a dark corner of recent European history… a forgotten masterpiece.
—*The Evening Standard *
Scathing, disillusioned novel ridiculing the notion of a new start and a clean slate for West Germany. Pigeons on the Grass is set in Munich on a single day and its 105 short fragments reveal the failure of more than thirty characters to face up to reality.
—London Review of Books
In a many-toned language Koeppen not only depicts a cacophonous world but peoples that world with individuals whose lives barely overlap. The result documents a uniquely German situation; it also, with its echoes of James Joyce and John Dos Passos, reconnects the German novel at a surprisingly early date to modernist fiction.
Koeppen’s voice—cold, defiant and relentless in its fury at the deadly amnesia he saw emerge from Germany’s ruins after World War II—neither transforms nor imbues the world around him, but rather indicts it.
—The New York Times
Almost eerily contemporary in its concerns, and remarkable as a sidelong, searing appraisal of the legacy of the Nazi years, it is a recovered masterpiece.