The Final Cut
Die letzte Sau

patrick hoffmann die letzte sau
Schöffling & Co.
July 2009 / 288pp
Fiction

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.

review

Twenty years after the Berlin Wall came down, literature and other cultural products from the former East Germany still heavily bear its imprint. In the English-speaking world, two of the most successful German films in recent years can be said to carry a ‘Made in the GDR’ stamp. Little is known, however, of the modern realities of the former GDR. The fate of the ordinary people who went from ‘real existing socialism’ to the brave new world of free market capitalism overnight has been largely hidden from view.

How refreshing, then, to read Patrick Hofmann’s Die letzte Sau, ostensibly a family drama in a small village outside Leipzig in the early 1990s, but one in fact which tackles wider political and economic themes without ever losing its humane core.

From multiple viewpoints, Hofmann introduces the reader to the three generations of the Schlegel family, from paterfamilias Albrecht, eighty-three-years-old and a survivor of Depression, war, Fascism and Communism, to grandson René, who is on the cusp of adulthood just as the certainties of adult life in his part of the world are crumbling. Most other families have already left the area as the once mighty coal industry falls victim to ‘modernisation’ and the diktats of free marketeers from the West. But the Schlegels are determined to stand their ground just a little bit longer, at least for the annual slaughter of one of their prized pigs – the signal for a family reunion.

Hofmann captures with precision and acuity the interaction and tension between the rural and the (post-) industrial in the Schlegels’ rhythms and rituals as timelessness rubs shoulders with a specific historical moment when, in Marx’s famous phrase, ‘all that is solid melts into air’ and ordinary people struggle to maintain their dignity amid uncertainty and disruption. The characters, from crotchety Albrecht to his fretful daughter Sonja and her hard-drinking husband Achim, are lent an unsentimental humanity. Humour becomes part of their defence mechanism against a world they increasingly struggle to understand.

For too long, East Germans have been cast as either tarnished Stasi informers or boozy neo-Nazis in the wider imagination. This novel offers a perfect opportunity for an enterprising publisher to paint a fuller picture. Dramatic, engaging, provocative and wise, it captures the imagination until long after the pig has squealed its last.

about the author

Patrick Hofmann was born in 1971 in Borna, growing up and completing his Abitur exams in the GDR before the Berlin Wall fell. He studied philosophy, German and history in Berlin, Leipzig, Moscow and Strasbourg, and has lived in Athens since 2002. He has worked as a freelance journalist and translator, and in 2008 had some of his short stories published in Sinn und Form. Die letzte Sau is his first novel.

rights information

Schöffling & Co. Verlagsbuchhandlung GmbHKaiserstraße 79
60329 Frankfurt am Main, German
Tel: +49 69 92 07 87 16
Email: kathrin.scheel@schoeffling.de
Contact: Kathrin Scheel
www.schoeffling.de 

Schöffling & Co. has a simple credo: the focus is on the authors. It has gained the reputation of being a ‘publishing house that plays a significant role in the shaping of Germany’s literary future’ (SPIEGEL online). Founded in November 1993, Schöffling & Co. has since emerged as one of Germany’s most innovative independent literary publishing houses with a tightly-woven international network. An atmosphere of mutual confidence and esteem and an unceasing commitment to its authors and their works provide the basis for a fruitful literary relationship. New German voices are recognised and published alongside established and famous names, while authors in translation include Sadie Jones, Olga Tokarczuk, Jennifer Egan, Peter Behrens, Nir Baram or Miljenko Jergovic.

translation assistance

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.

share this recommendation

Share this on twitter, facebook or via mail.

All recommendations from Autumn 2009