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A Whole Life

Written by Robert Seethaler

Translated by Charlotte Collins

  • 160 Pages
  • 9781487000745
  • 8.5" x 5.5"
  • FICTION / Literary



Publication Date October 03, 2015

Shortlisted for The 2016 Man Booker International Prize

Andreas lives his whole life in the Austrian Alps, where he arrives as a young boy taken in by a farming family. He is a man of very few words and so, when he falls in love with Marie, he doesn't ask for her hand in marriage, but instead has some of his friends light her name at dusk across the mountain. When Marie dies in an avalanche, pregnant with their first child, Andreas' heart is broken. He leaves his valley just once more, to fight in WWII — where he is taken prisoner in the Caucasus — and returns to find that modernity has reached his remote haven . . .

Like John Williams' Stoner or Denis Johnson's Train Dreams, A Whole Life is a tender book about finding dignity and beauty in solitude. An exquisite novel about a simple life, it has already demonstrated its power to move thousands of readers with a message of solace and truth. It looks at the moments, big and small, that make us what we are.

Short-listed for the The Man Booker International Prize 2016


Robert Seethaler

ROBERT SEETHALER is an Austrian living in Berlin. He is the bestselling author of four novels, including The Tobacconist, which has sold more than 200,000 copies in Germany, and A Whole Life, which has sold more than 100,000 copies in Germany. He also works as an actor, most recently in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth.

Charlotte Collins

Charlotte Collins studied English at Cambridge University. She worked as an actor and radio journalist in both Germany and the UK before becoming a literary translator. She has also translated Robert Seethaler's A Whole Life, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, and is co-translating The Eighth Life, an award-winning novel by Nino Haratischwili.


"Every nuance, every word, every sentence — everything is precisely in place. An admirable achievement for such a slim volume." Die Welt

"[Seethaler has] succeeded in crafting a book which has to be described as more poignant and harrowing than anything written in a very long time." taz

"A magnificent author who moves us so profoundly with an unforgettable book." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"Do yourself a favour and read this book. It is food for the soul — so quiet,so subtle, yet with resounding reverberations." WDR

"The delicate, elegant song of a fulfilled life . . . Full of wonder." Literarische Welt

"Robert Seethaler's quietly mesmerizing novel - elemental in both tone and subject - shows what joy and nobility can be found in a life of hardship, patience and bereavement. It is at once heart-rending and heart-warming. A Whole Life, for all its gentleness, is a very powerful book." Jim Crace

"It's refreshing to read a story marked by quiet, concentrated attention . . . a reaction to all around us that is prolix, narcissistic and mindlessly technology-worshipping. What is perhaps most remarkable about this remarkable novel is the way that it continually weaves past, present and future into a single fabric. A deeply moving book" Sunday Times 

"Seethaler shows that for even the most ordinary people, life is an extraordinary adventure — and he does so tenderly and memorably." Mail on Sunday

"The story of Andreas Egger is both heartbreaking and uplifting…the beauty of this slim volume makes the reader pause and think about what it means to be alive." Toronto Star

"[A] quiet reflection on solitude, transformation and contentment… a lovely story, and stands as a testament to the fact only we can define our happiness, and life is what you make it." Winnipeg Free Press

"Every word has a place. Words evoke an imagery that is imprinted in the reader's mind… [a]poignant song of a fulfilled life" Sukasa Reads blog

"The Austrian writer Robert Seethaler’s A Whole Life is a lovely contemplation of a life in solitude in a remote valley, into which the modern world slowly intrudes." Sunday Times