"How do we keep one another’s company? How might our lives unfold alongside those of our parents with Alzheimer’s nearby? In Arno Geiger’s exquisite memoir, he lets us into the private and sometimes sacred space he found in the company of his father—a relationship nurtured by his own willingness to share a mutual solitude, and to visit those places where his father’s spirit was broken and where it thrived. The tender stories in The Old King in His Exile hold the quiet love between these men, and invite the reader to apprehend more of what it can mean, even in our final days, to be alive."
—Adrian Nicole Leblanc, author of Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx
Arno Geiger’s father was never an easy man to know. Born into a farming family in Austria and conscripted into World War II as a seventeen-year-old “schoolboy soldier,” he was later reticent about the past. When he developed Alzheimer’s, Arno realized he was not going to ask for help: “As my father can no longer cross the bridge into my world, I have to go over to his.” In this intelligent, moving, and often-funny memoir, he recounts his journey to get to know his father at last. Arno remains at his side, listens to his words, which are often full of unexpected poetry, and discovers that despite everything, his father has not lost his wit, charm, and self-assurance.
Awash with light and full of warmth and insight, The Old King in His Exile is a wonderfully affecting story that will offer solace to anyone who has struggled with losing a loved one.
“Arno Geiger has written much more than the portrait of his father, a man who revealed his extraordinariness only late in life, on the edge of darkness. And yet it is initially easier to say what this book is not: it is not a book about dementia, it is not a family saga, and, unlike most books sons write about their fathers, it is definitely not an act of revenge. Instead, The Old King in His Exile is a profound, distinctive and timeless investigation into what concerns every one of us: aging and illness, home and family. A meditation on the things we find it hard to deal with. And even though one is justified to do so, one almost doesn’t want to call this tremendous, slim work a great book, because Arno Geiger’s attitude is one of humility, modesty, gentleness and gratitude. His book is an exercise in asceticism: to honestly say all that needs to be said without wasting a single word.… The Old King in His Exile is a love letter to his father, but above all a great work of literature about what makes life worth living no matter what – and a reminder of how far kindness will carry us.”
—Felicitas von Lovenberg, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
“Arno Geiger has given us a beautiful, entirely unsentimental book describing his father’s dementia…. The Old King in His Exile is a superbly written book.”
—Denis Scheck, ARD druckfrisch
“Arno Geiger has written a book awash with light, full of affection and love. While the literary quality is indisputable, more than anything else we learn how to come to terms with illness.”
—Anna Riek, ZDF aspekte
“A moving, illuminating book about a sinister illness.… The Old King in His Exile is a very special book, not a settling of accounts [with a parent] but a book about the quest for a lost world, a lost home, a person presumed lost and a relationship rediscovered. A remarkable, grown-up, curious, and touchingly delightful book.”
—Elmar Krekeler, Die Welt
“The Old King in His Exile is a magical work. It is true to life and yet effortlessly artful.”
—Meike Fessmann, Der Tagesspiegel
“A loving testimonial, a detailed, in-depth account of his sick father and his relationship with his children, as well as a story about a quest for self-understanding. At times sad, at other times it brings a smile to your face…. Always full of beauty, like a day in February that is tinged with a promise of spring.”
—Jacques Schuster, Die Welt
“Flawless and deeply affecting.”
—Andreas Isenschmid, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
About the Author:
Arno Geiger grew up in the village of Wolfurt near Bregenz, Austria. He studied German studies, ancient history and comparative literature at the Universities of Innsbruck and Vienna. He has worked as a freelance writer since 1993. From 1986 to 2002, he also worked as a technician at the annual Bregenzer Festspiele summer opera festival. In October 2005, he was the recipient of the first Deutscher Buchpreis literature prize (awarded by the booksellers' association of Germany) for his novel Es geht uns gut. Geiger lives in Wolfurt and Vienna.
About the Translator
Stefan Tobler founded his celebrated publishing house, And Other Stories, out of frustration at the great books not being published in English. With English and Swiss parents, he was born in the Amazon. After his first degree, he moved to Dresden for some years. He later did an MA and PhD at UEA, Norwich. He translates from Portuguese and German. His translations include the 2015 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlisted Água Viva by Clarice Lispector, A Cup of Rage by Raduan Nassar (Penguin Modern Classics), the poetry collection Silence River by Antônio Moura (Arc) and Rodrigo de Souza Leão’s All Dogs are Blue. He reads French and Spanish too. He’s on Twitter @stefantobler.