Distant, silent, often drunk, Walter Urban is a difficult man to have as a father. But his son-the narrator of this slim, harrowing novel-is curious about Walter's experiences during World War II, and so makes him a present of a blank notebook in which to write down his memories. Walter dies, however, leaving nothing but the barest skeleton of a story on those pages, leading his son to fill in the gaps himself, rightly or wrongly, with what he can piece together of his father's early life.This, then, is the story of Walter and his dangerously outspoken friend Friedrich Caroli, seventeen-year-old trainee milkers on a dairy farm in northern Germany who are tricked into volunteering for the army during the spring of 1945: the last, and in many ways the worst, months of the war. The men are driven to the point of madness by what they experience, and when Friedrich finally deserts his post, Walter is forced to do the unthinkable.
The German bestseller, a beautifully told and heart-breaking story of a friendship tragically interrupted by war.
'A sublime novel of damaged lives - and of fathers and sons.' Der Spiegel
The haunting portrayal of conflict and carnage in the final weeks of the second world war makes this German novel a modern classic . . . The boys are plunged from childhood into the abyss and this remarkable work charts a most terrible coming of age . . . The central relationship is tenderly rendered, and what the war does to it is devastating... In this, as in so much, the novel holds its own against Grass and Remarque; it is an excellent work, and one deserving of its wide readership. -- Rachel Seiffert * Guardian * A Bosch-like vision of hell... The horror of war and the deep damage it does to people... is not always handled as well, or as powerfully, as this. * Sunday Times * In this masterpiece, Ralf Rothmann manages the seemingly impossible. He describes the guilt of their fathers' generation from the viewpoint of the post-War generation without betraying it to a moralising know-it-all attitude. * Badische Zeitung * Searing, haunting, incandescent: Rothmann's new novel is a vital addition to the trove of wartime fiction. * Kirkus (starred review) * Rothmann's work [is] one of the most substantial of contemporary German literature. * Tagesspiegel * In contemporary German literature, there is nothing that can be compared to this book. * Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung * A sublime novel of damaged lives - and of fathers and sons. * Der Spiegel * With his powerful poetics, Ralf Rothmann belongs to the most important German authors, and as a narrator, he is possibly the most sensitive of his generation. He visualises thoughts, gestures and noises masterfully. * Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung * As a critic, one should use superlatives cautiously, but this novel is a sensation, a literary and political event. Rothmann's scenes and imagery are so impressive that readers experience the sensation of standing on the battlefield themselves. The author always finds the appropriate words for the horror, for this life damaged by war . . . Rothmann poses the question of guilt, without moralising . . . Apart from the prizes that this powerful and smart novel will receive, one wishes the text one thing first and foremost: many readers. From all generations, in Germany and abroad, because in belligerent times like these, the sad story of Walter and Friedrich is a strong, timeless beacon against war. * SWR * He imagines the characters, landscapes, dialogues with hallucinatory precision, doesn't spare the reader any detail of the brutality . . . [He] lets objects - a footstool, a coat, the hem of a dress - speak. * Suddeutsche Zeitung * One can justifiably say that To Die in Spring heralds the post-Grass era with force. * Die ZEIT * Rothmann tells a story which, without resorting to a hyper-realistic description of catastrophe, narrates the destruction of human beings who seek to remain untouched by evil, who strive with very different intensities to preserve the traces of their humanity . . . Moving, with exquisite prose, suffused with a sense of poetry, in the face of human and collective desolation. * Diario Vasco * To Die in Spring by Ralf Rothmann, is the best novel about the end of the Second World War in years, and a beautiful anti-war tale of universal importance . . . With its lyrical realism, the text reaches new heights. Not a word is out of place. * El Pais * In To Die in Spring Ralf Rothmann finds a way to describe German suffering without succumbing to self-pity or overlooking guilt. An extraordinary novel. * La Nueva Espanola * Brilliant . . . Spare and elegant, [To Die in Spring] paints a quietly harrowing picture of the lasting effects of human violence . . . Directly confronting issues of responsibility, accountability, and legacy, this is an undeniably powerful work. * Publishers' Weekly * Yes, you've already read Remarque, but you should read this one because it's not just the story of wartime trauma, but also the story of how that trauma affects the future. Walter Urban and his friend Friedrich Caroli are just 17 years old when they're drafted from their dairy-farm duties into the trenches. Today, right now, we all need to read the chilling section in which very young men are hectored into military service. * LitHub *
Ralf Rothmann is a German novelist, poet, and dramatist. To Die in Spring is his eighth novel, but the first to be published in the UK.