Not much more than a novella in size, but a whole novel in its heart.

robert seethalerA Whole Life is a big claim when the book itself is so petite, at just 149 pages of reasonably large type.

But Andreas Eggar – orphan, labourer, prisoner of war, mountain guide, hermit – is a man worth devoting a few hours of your life to.

Seethaler doesn’t care too much about linear time; past, present and future come together as necessary in this careful, gentle and dispassionate account of a hard and simple life.

Eggar, escaping from his difficult upbringing, finds a home for himself in the mountains of Austria, far from anything that resembles modern civilization. He is strong and diligent and has no trouble finding work, moving from being a farm hand to working on the cable cars that are starting to move into the mountain valleys.

His mundane life, even in this obscure place, is shaped by the big forces pushing the world. He finds love, serves in WWII and becomes a Russian prisoner-of-war, before returning to a new life as a mountain guide, as his secluded mountain world starts to open up to tourism.

In its unpretentious  way, the book gives Eggar’s uncomplicated and uncomplaining life a powerful meaning.

A bestseller in its original German, A Whole Life was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize.

This book was published in Australia in June 2016