Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The Tobacconist - Robert Seethaler

A short but superb novel set in the three years before World War II about little people. You know, those anonymous folk who live through enormous world events but are unknown, unseen, unsung.

Franz is just 17 when he leaves his Mother and his tiny home on a lakeside in Bavaria to take up an apprenticeship with a tobacconist in Vienna. The year is 1937 and in a few months Germany will annex Austria - and things will change for ever. He's only ever read the monthly local paper until he arrives in Vienna, and the Tobacconist makes sure he reads some of every newspaper on sale. Boring, yes, but he does get to absorb the news, and the closer to Germany's take-over, the more we, the reader,  see what is happening. He meets Sigmund Freud; he falls in love with a bohemian girl, and trouble gets ever closer.

The book, original published in German, has been translated to English.  I don't speak or read German so never read it in the original, but there didn't seem to be any slip-ups here (as there are sometimes in translations), so full marks to the translator Charlotte Collins.

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