Aller Tage Abend opens in Galicia in 1901 with the funeral of a baby girl who has died of cot death. In the first part of the book we witness the mother’s overwhelming grief for her child, her husband’s emigration to America and the woman’s struggle to maintain her family’s grocery business. However, each of the book’s subsequent sections proceeds as though the girl did not die in infancy and envisions an alternative life story for her, each with its own fatal conclusion.
Erpenbeck’s novel offers an oblique take on twentieth-century history. It is a playful response to the endless possibilities open to a novelist, as well as to the contingency of human experience. The complex construction of this work of fiction and its vast historical and geographical scope is beautifully counterbalanced by the unadorned and understated language. Erpenbeck relies on lists of evocative facts and figures to create a particular atmosphere: Viennese street names, for example, or the price of a woman’s body in black market groceries – butter, veal, and candles. Jenny Erpenbeck’s broad and growing international readership will be thrilled by this latest novel.