Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke

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It may be that this is a portrait of the hysteria behind the calm...but there is real, felt horror at what we gradually learn is the monstrous, deranged behaviour of the father.
-Guardian

Synopsis

The modern German classic that has shaped an entire generation.


A mother and her two teenage children sit at the dinner table. In the middle stands a large pot of cooked mussels. Why has the father not returned home? As the evening wears on, we glimpse the issues that are tearing this family apart.


‘I wrote this book in August 1989, just before the Fall of the Berlin Wall. I wanted to understand how revolutions start. It seemed logical to use the figure of a tyrannical father and turn the story into a German family saga.’ Birgit Vanderbeke


Why Peirene chose to publish this book: ‘I love this monologue. It's the first Peirene book which made me laugh out loud with tears in my eyes. The author lays bare the contradictory logic of an inflexible mind. This is a poignant yet hilarious narrative with a brilliant ending.’ Meike Ziervogel


‘We are playing catch-up here with something of a contemporary European classic.’ David Mills, Sunday Times


‘The novella brilliantly renders both the power of the revolutionary moment and the uncertainty of the future it unleashes.’ Jane Yager, Times Literary Supplement


‘This is one of those books that doesn't tell us what to think, but sets us off thinking . . . Who writes this kind of nuanced work in Britain?’ Nicholas Lezard, Guardian


‘Sinister, funny and heartening, this taut novella reflects, within the microcosm of the family, the dissolution of the East German state, with an insight, economy and controlled fury that have made it a modern German classic.’ Chris Schuler, Independent


‘There is a political edge to Vanderbeke's provocative examination of patriarchal violence, and part of the power of this darkly comic tale is how well it succeeds as an allegory for political tyranny.’ Lucy Popescu, Independent on Sunday


‘Astute, darkly funny, provocative, often uncomfortable in its devastating depiction of patriarchal oppression but ultimately uplifting.’ Pam Norfolk, Lancashire Evening Post


‘An extraordinary book, the story unspooled with masterful restraint, and written with simplicity and precision.’ Francesca Segal, Standpoint


SHORTLISTED FOR THE INDEPENDENT FOREIGN FICTION PRIZE 2014

WINNER OF THE SCHLEGEL-TIECK PRIZE FOR GERMAN TRANSLATION 2014

FOYLES BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2013

 

About Birgit Vanderbeke

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Published March 1, 2013 by Peirene Press. 112 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Nicholas Lezard on Feb 12 2013

It may be that this is a portrait of the hysteria behind the calm...but there is real, felt horror at what we gradually learn is the monstrous, deranged behaviour of the father.

Read Full Review of Mussel Feast | See more reviews from Guardian

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