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To the Back of Beyond by Peter Stamm

To the Back of Beyond

To the Back of Beyond by Peter Stamm
Paperback
Oct 03, 2017 | 160 Pages
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    Oct 03, 2017 | 160 Pages

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    Oct 03, 2017 | 160 Pages

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Praise

“Stamm’s superb descriptions of alpine nature and internal human conflict (Thomas, wandering through the Alps, often reflects on his wife and family fondly but doesn’t want to return home) are aided by Hofmann’s excellent translation. Even when Thomas’s actions cause pain for those he has promised to love, his introspection makes his impulse to walk away from everything less condemnable. This is a moving work about freedom and wanting.”Publisher’s Weekly 

“In this densely detailed, largely opaque book, the novelist leaves his readers as unmoored as his characters.” —Kirkus Reviews 

“Michael Hoffman’s translation from the German is cool and precise. To the Back of Beyond follows Thomas and Astrid in alternating sections; his give a careful account of his route, procuring provisions, the footpaths, slopes, valleys, and streams, the landscape with its ‘thin shreds of mist.’ She waits, searches, tries to calm the children. One month after Thomas disappears, there is a twist in the plot. It is masterfully timed. . . Both of them, it is clear, are in thrall to fantasies — one dreams about slipping the ties of responsibility, the other about seamlessly restoring what has been broken.” —Harper’s 

“Reading To The Back of Beyond, his third novel, one begins to discern recurring themes in his work: man-woman relationships, marriage, desire, infidelity, family, a particular bourgeois matrix of life that can become a trap despite it – or even, because of it – being the end-point of the individualist desire that lies at the foundation of capitalist societies…As the novel nears its end, Stamm does two skilful things with time: the first is to indicate effortlessly its passing in large segments, so that we move from the earlier calibration of time as hours and days through weeks and months to years and decades; the second, to loop back in time to give us the story of how Astrid and Thomas came to be together…Stamm’s interest does not lie in the texture of lives that are usually depicted by novelists in lyrical- or psychological-realism, especially in the logical progression of events that generally provides the dynamo for plots…Stamm is not even interested in psychological interiority. He is more concerned about something that I can only call existential, something that will be indicated merely through the most oblique of hints…The translation, by Michael Hofmann, a mighty critic and poet as well as one of the foremost translators from the German language, does an impeccable job in rendering the blanched austerity of Stamm’s style and its deliberate affectlessness.” New Statesman
 
“As usual with Stamm, the story gets its energy from an intriguing blankness about motive, with nothing presented by way of justification for Thomas’s actions…exceptionally moving writing…” Guardian
 
“The fiction of Peter Stamm, an acclaimed Swiss novelist who writes in German and has a growing reputation in English, finds drama in the ordinary…Stamm eschews gothic detail or excess of emotion…To the Back of Beyond is the story of a midlife crisis…In Michael Hoffman’s translation, Stamm’s prose has a hypnotic quality. It is more common in German than in English to splice together complete clauses with commas; Hoffman preserves the punctuation, which effectively conveys the drift and elision of image and detail that gives the narrative its dreamlike tinge…His realism is pressed into the service of metaphysics: the idea that others are most alive in our imagination. This is either romantic and consoling, or existentially bleak, depending on your taste. If the rigours of the unsettling form that Stamm has devised limit his freedom to dramatise his characters, this high-wire act between sentimentality and nihilism is nevertheless an ingenious and beautiful creation.” Financial Times 

“…This is an optimistic, even romantic book. It praises the rejuvenating power of nature, examines how identity is formed in collaboration with those around us and somehow manages to see the good in long-term relationships, even as it presents a lengthy list of reasons why a person might choose to exit one. Stamm’s cool, atonal style suits this sort of subject. It makes the moral at the centre of the fable that bit deeper – it makes it real.”Literary Review 

“Stamm’s latest offering, gracefully translated by the virtuosic Michael Hoffmann, is titled in English To The Back of Beyond. Here Stamm deploys again, with confidence and dexterity, qualities that have made this writer a favorite of both critics and the reading public. He writes a clean, low-key prose, chary of modifiers, that owes much to his early admiration for the Hemingway of the Michigan stories.” Arts Fuse 

“A brilliant examination of freedom and rejuvenation.” – Largehearted Boy

“The straightforward exposition casts a fairytale-like spell…” – Washington Independent Review of Books

“…I was forced to look hard, hard at myself, and you can’t ask much more of a book than that…” –Words Without Borders


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