Beyond the Lake

seeruecken peter stamm
S. Fischer
March 2011 / 189pp

This book is outside of the five-year window for guaranteed assistance with English language translation. We suggest getting in touch with the relevant funding body for an informal conversation about the possibility of support. Please refer to to our  recommendations page for books that are currently covered by our funding guarantee.


This year the New York Times described Stamm as ‘one of Europe’s most exciting writers.’ Beyond the Lake, his fourth volume of short stories, which was shortlisted for the prestigious Leipzig Book Fair Prize 2011, demonstrates why.

Against the background of various alienating and utilitarian settings, Stamm describes the inner lives of individuals struggling to come to terms with the circumstances of their existence – loneliness, fear, loss, failure – yet occasionally enjoying brief moments of enlightenment or momentary connection with other individuals. In this way Stamm’s short stories capture fleeting thoughts and events in lives which are in a constant state of flux and uncertainty. But, like photographs, they offer neither judgment nor simple solution.

‘Sweet Dreams’ focuses on the hopes, doubts and fears of Lara, who’s recently moved into her first flat together with her boyfriend. Stamm is particularly good at portraying the tensions in the relationship between the sexes, for example with a childless couple on holiday in ‘The Way of Things’. Sometimes there are indications of mental instability in Stamm’s characters, as in the collection’s opening story, ‘Summer Guests’. ‘In the Forest’ tells of the life of a girl who, having been subjected to the drunken and violent behaviour of her parents, spends three years living in a nearby forest while still attending school. There are intimations that living in the natural environment of the forest enables the girl to experience a contentment which is denied to her first by her unhappy home life with her parents, and then later when she lives on an anonymous new housing estate with a faithless husband and two children. The girl’s mind is haunted by the image of a hunter whose potential to end her life she perceives as a source of comfort.

Described as a ‘master of minimalism’, and of ‘linguistic asceticism’, Stamm writes in a concise, unpretentious and understated manner which conveys a sense of quiet reflection, humour, humanity and honesty. With subtle gestures and brief exchanges of dialogue, he is able to articulate elusive insights into a variety of universally recognisable issues and dilemmas concerning life and relationships. His portrayal of contemporary life expresses a sense of unease and alienation in an uncertain world in which it’s increasingly difficult to feel at home. Furthermore, the twists and turns of the plotlines are unpredictable and thought-provoking, raising questions in the reader’s mind.

press quotes

‘In Seerücken, too, Stamm proves himself as master of the personal failure, the private disaster.’
– Frankfurter Rundschau

‘There is nothing coincidental about Peter Stamm’s short stories; the chains of motifs are as carefully arranged as the intertextual allusions. Each one of the ten stories in Seerücken has its own independence and force.’
– Süddeutsche Zeitung

‘Extraordinary, intoxicating, brilliant: with his new collection Seerücken, Peter Stamm proves once again his exceptional talent.’– Die Weltwoche

about the author

Peter Stamm was born in 1963 and now lives near Zurich. He had his international breakthrough with his debut novel Agnes in 1989. Since then his books have been translated into thirty languages. For his novels and collections of stories he has received various prizes, including the Ehrengabe des Kantons Zürich (1998 and 2001), the Rauris Literary Prize (1999), the Rheingau Literary Prize (2001), the Schiller Prize, the Carl-Heinrich-Ernst- Kunstpreis (2002) and the Alemannischer Literaturpreis (2011).

Previous works include:
Sieben Jahre (2009); Wir Fliegen (Stories, 2008); Heidi (children’s book, 2008); An einem Tag wie Diesem (2006); Agnes (1998)

rights information

Translation rights sold to:

World English (Other Press), France (Christian Bourgois), Spain (Acantilado)

Translation rights available from:
Agentur Liepman AG
Englischviertelstrasse 59
CH-8032 Zürich, Switzerland
Tel: + 41 43 268 23 81
Contact: Marianne Fritsch,
For UK English rights please contact 
Carol Lazare, 

S. Fischer Verlag was founded by Samuel Fischer in Berlin in 1886. He was the first to publish many now famous authors such as Franz Kafka, Arthur Schnitzler, Hugo von Hoffmannsthal and Thomas Mann. Both S. Fischer Verlag and Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag focus on literature, psychology and history. Contemporary authors writing in German include Julia Franck, Michael Lenz, Marlene Streeruwitz, Christoph Ransmayr and Wolfgang Hilbig. The firm’s distinguished list also includes many leading international authors in translation.

translation assistance

Pro Helvetia covers up to 100% of the effective translation costs for literary works by Swiss authors.

share this recommendation

Share this on twitter, facebook or via mail.

All recommendations from Autumn 2011