There aren’t many books I can read in one sitting, and “A Whole Life” by Robert Seethaler isn’t one of them. It took two sittings. Before I went to sleep and after I woke up. Probably 2 hours in total as it’s not a very long novel, but strangely hypnotic. There isn’t much of a plot – the novel just details the miserable childhood, moderately better coming-of-age, solitary maturity and relatively happy old age of an Austrian mountain man, Andreas Egger, through the twentieth century.
Egger is the definition of phlegmatic. Whatever life throw’s at him, including natural disasters, lost love, the eastern front, and the small-minded Alpine neighbours’ typical Austrian conservatism, he accepts.
Egger does not search for meaning, he just lives, without getting frustrated over events that he cannot control. The important things in his life are his and his alone, like the first time he meets his future wife. He doesn’t look for meaning, he accepts the small victories with gratitude, rather than trying to balance them on some imaginary scales against any amount of suffering or misfortune.
The book has been a best seller in Germany. I naturally read the English translation and to me, it was beautifully done. Highly recommended.