'We are born and we die - but many things could happen in between. Which life do we end up living?' From one of the most daring voices in European fiction, this is a story of the twentieth century traced through the various possible lives of one woman. She is a baby who barely survives beyond her first breath, and suffocates in the cradle. Or perhaps not? She lives to become as an adult and dies beloved. Or dies betrayed. Or perhaps not? Her memory is honoured. Or she is forgotten by everyone. Moving from a small Galician town at the turn of the century, through pre-war Vienna and Stalin's Moscow to present-day Berlin, Jenny Erpenbeck homes in on the moments when life follows a particular branch and 'fate' suddenly emerges from the sly interplay between history, character and pure chance. Fully alive with ambition and ideas, The End of Days is a novel that pulls apart the threads of destiny and allows us to see the present and the past anew.
This beautiful and ambitious novel by German writer Erpenbeck (Visitation) explores the many paths life can take. A baby girl dies accidentally in a small Eastern European town during the early years of the 20th century, spinning her family into disarray. But what if she had survived? Divided into five sections, each of which imagines a possible endpoint for the nameless female protagonist, the book begins with her death as an infant in Galicia, in the Hapsburg Empire, and spans nearly a century. The second section finds the teen girl living in wartime Vienna, hungry and rebellious. Her fate will hinge on an anguished stranger whom she meets after a heartbreak of her own. In the third section, she has left Vienna for Moscow, where she is an impassioned Communist worrying about her husband's arrest and fighting to secure her own place within the party. The story concludes with two more possibilities for her as she continues life in Russia and Berlin. Erpenbeck's graceful prose suits the understated tone of this Hans Fallada Prize winner, whose historical and political breadth could be stretched to unbelievability in less dextrous hands. The novel elegantly frames our human instinct to reimagine endings and tragedies as barely remembered moments over the course of a lifetime.