Das Floss der Medusa, by Franzobel

Franzobel cover

‘The Raft of the Medusa’

Paul Zsolnay, January 2017

Shortlisted for the German Book Prize 2017

Sample Translation


18 July 1816: Off the west coast of Africa, the captain of the Argus discovers a raft some twenty metres long. What he sees on it makes the blood in his veins run cold: hollow eyes, parched lips, burned skin covered with sores and blisters… These emaciated figures are the last 15 of 147 people who survived for two weeks on the open seas after the shipwreck of the frigate Medusa; they had simply been abandoned since there wasn’t enough room on the lifeboats. Told from the point-of-view of the scullion Victor, the book recounts how this tragedy could come to pass.


Franzobel was born 1967 in Vöcklabruck and is one of Austria’s most popular and polarising writers. He has received numerous awards, including the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 1995, the Arthur Schnitzler prize in 2002 and recently the Nicolas Born Prize. His most recent publications by Zsolnay are Was die Männer so treiben, wenn die Frauen im Badezimmer sind (2012) and the crime novels Wiener Wunder (2014) and Groschens Grab (2015).

The jury’s comments:

‘Where there is no bread, there is no law.’ Such a simple sentence. And so depressingly true. With his novel, Franzobel serves up an old story that took place over 200 years ago. Why should we still read about it today? What Franzobel burns into our memory is this: we are all on board this frigate together and we are all fighting for survival on the raft of the Medusa together. After all, as we have already said: where there is no bread, there won’t be laws anymore either. This still holds true today. As a result, the novel is also a small, harrowing history of humanity in just 600 riveting pages.