A Whole Life was written by Austrian writer, Robert Seethaler and published in 2014 by Hanser Berlin. It was later published in English in 2015 by Picador Books and translated by Charlotte Collins. It has been nominated for multiple awards, including the Man Booker International Prize 2016.
A Whole Life is the very modest and unassuming story of Andreas Egger, who has lived on the same Austrian mountain landscape his whole life and recounts various experiences from the quietude of his ordinary and solitary existence.
This very short 150-page read took me only one afternoon to finish and overall can be described as an ordinary life, beautifully described. Seethaler’s depictions of the mountainous setting is both vivid and atmospheric which made it easy for me to feel immersed in Andreas’ story.
A Whole Life, as the name suggests, covers the entire span of the life of its protagonist. From his harsh upbringing on a farm by an abusive uncle, to the banal charm of his contented marriage, to his trialsome experiences in Russia during the war and finally the quietude of his declining years. The tone of the story evokes a quiet dignity and seasoned sense of wisdom that was profound, but also felt uninteresting to read at times, given the very glacial pacing of the plot.
Andreas Egger is a lovable protagonist whose humble life was a joy to read about. I found myself thinking about what it would have been like to have met him in his later years, despite his more irascible tendencies as his age progressed, and I can only imagine the experience as being a very pleasant exchange with a very sweet old man.
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