Gott der Barbaren, by Stephan Thome

Thome cover‘God of the Barbarians’

Suhrkamp Verlag, September 2018

Shortlisted for the German Book Prize 2018

Sample Translation


China, mid-nineteenth-century. A Christian revolutionary movement swamps the Empire with terror and destruction. A young German missionary, who wants to help to modernise the enormous Empire, travels full of idealism to Nanjing, in order to gain an impression of the rebellion. There he finds himself caught between the fronts where, ultimately, he loses everything that is important to him. At the conflict hotspots – in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing – we encounter a cast of characters as tattered as they are fascinating: among them Lord Elgin, the British High Commissioner in China; and a Chinese scholar, appointed warlord, who has grown so powerful that even the emperor has reasons to fear him.

In his enthralling new book, Stephan Thome tells a story that precedes our crisis-ravaged present day. Under the command of a Christian convert who believes he is God’s second son, rebels in China create a religious state that, in a devastating way, pre-empts the terrorist movements of our days. A major novel with a far-reaching gaze on religious fanaticism, on how easily we can be seduced, and on the loss of orientation in a radically changing world.




Stephan Thome, born in 1972 in Biedenkopf, studied Philosophy and Sinology at the Freie Universität in Berlin and at various universities in China, Taiwan and Japan. He worked in East Asia for ten years and has also lived in Lisbon. His novels Border Crossing (original title: Grenzgang, 2009) and Centrifugal Forces (original title: Fliehkräfte, 2012) were both shortlisted for the German Book Prize. His work has won several prizes. Stephan Thome lives in Taipei.


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