The story of Andreas Egger is of a life distinguished by simplicity. It is also the story of a relationship between a solitary man and a stunning landscape. But more pertinently it is a story with which you, me and every other person can relate to, in howsoever a trivial or material way. Robert Seethaler has come up with a book that speaks for itself. A speech that is neither couched in jargon nor blanketed by euphemisms. Seethaler’s “A Whole Life” sizzles with simplicity and sears in its clarity. Suffused with warmth yet soaked in tragedy, this paradoxical masterpiece could well be on its way to carving out a niche as a modern classic.
Andreas Egger is transported under unfortunate circumstances, to a breathtaking mountain valley as a four year old child. Nurtured by both an adopted farmer father and Mother Nature, Egger leads a symbiotic relationship with the magnificent but dangerous terrain surrounding him. A singularly peculiar encounter with a dying goatherd popularly known as Horned Hannes influences both the destiny and future of Egger. A hitherto uneventful existence takes on eventful hues and colour as Andreas discovers love, only to lose it in dire circumstance, war, camaraderie and significantly – solitude. Never losing either equanimity or equilibrium, Andreas Egger faces every obstacle hurled at him by both man and fate with a remarkable sense of acceptance and stoicism. Each tryst of Andreas in turn leaves a lasting impact on the heart, mind and soul of the reader. In fact it is the reader who is left marveling at the almost incomprehensible neutrality of Andreas’ emotions and who is almost forced to scream out at his protagonist, exhorting him to give vent to his trials, triumphs and tribulations.
The most alluring and masterly aspect of the book is its concurrent treatment of and reference to the past, present and future. The weft and warp of differing timelines are weaved together in an extraordinary fashion by Robert Seethaler. Andrea’s existence thus seems to constitute not only a whole, but an eternal life! The frightening ease with which Seethaler accomplishes this feat is to putting it mildly – disturbingly mesmeric! In an era where books are deliberately kept convoluted and garish with a view to accumulating both bourgeoisie readership and elitist acclaim, ‘A Whole Life’ is a stand out. It represents a work of virtuosity embellished by the frugality of language and the fortitude of narration. The latter part owes a great debt to the translation skills of Charlotte Collins.
If there is one book with which you plan to begin your reading chore in the year 2017, I would sincerely or even forcefully recommend that you pick up a copy of “A Whole Life”.