‘No land more lovely’ is the first line of a German folk song celebrating the joys of rural life. In the case of this novel, the reference is ironic. Friedberg, a (fictional) village in Southern Germany, is a deadly place – a former farming community where the land has been sold off to developers, leaving only a pub, a gun club and a chapel. It, along with the neighbouring village of Rottensol are provincial hellholes that keep a stranglehold on their inhabitants, determined that they shall die where they were born. The story told is that of Uwe, recently deceased childhood friend of the narrator Olaf, and describes the unhappy family life to which he was condemned, his loneliness, his turning for comfort to the drugs that will kill him, and his only comfort, which was to look back on the happier times he spent with his grandmother. It is in the telling that this novel proves its power, its poetic tone and its power of hovering between intimacy and distance.
All recommendations from Autumn 2009