Scathingly beautiful—lyrically inescapable.
—Nadine Gordimer

Wolfgang Koeppen’s postwar masterpiece in a luminous new translation by the poet Michael Hofmann

Available October 6, 2020

Pigeons on the Grass


Translated from the German by Michael Hofmann

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.

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Scathingly beautiful—lyrically inescapable.
—Nadine Gordimer
Germany’s greatest living writer.
—Gunter Grass
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.
The Independent
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.
Publishers Weekly (STARRED)