Books

The End of Days

The End of Days is a book by Jenny Erpenbeck.

Jenny Erpenbeck

Winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Hans Fallada Prize, The End of Days, by the acclaimed German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, consists essentially of five books," each leading to a different death of the same unnamed female protagonist. How could it all have gone differently? - the narrator asks in the intermezzos. The first chapter begins with the death of a baby in the early twentieth-century Hapsburg Empire. In the next chapter, the same girl grows up in Vienna after World War I, but a pact she makes with a young man leads to a second death. In the next scenario,she survives adolescence and moves to Russia with her husband. Both are dedicated Communists, yet our heroine ends up in a labor camp. But her fate does not end there. (From New Directions)

Jenny Erpenbeck is a German novelist, playwright and director. Her books include Visitation, The End of Days and Go, Went, Gone.

From the book

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, her grandmother said to her at the edge of the grave. But that wasn't right, because the Lord had taken away much more than had been there to start with, and everything her child might have become was now lying there at the bottom of the pit, waiting to be covered up. Three handfuls of dirt, and the little girl running off to school with her satchel on her back now lay there in the ground, her satchel bouncing up and down as she runs ever farther; three handfuls of dirt, and the ten-year-old playing the piano with pale fingers lay there; three handfuls, and the adolescent girl men would turn to stare at as she passed because of her bright coppery hair was interred; three handfuls tossed down into the grave, and now even the grown woman who would have come to her aid when she herself had begun to move slowly, taking some task out of her hands with the words: oh, Mother — she too was slowly being suffocated by the dirt falling into her mouth. Beneath three handfuls of dirt, an old woman lay there in the grave, a woman who herself had begun to move slowly, a woman to whom another young woman, or a son, might at times have said: oh, Mother — now she too was waiting to have dirt thrown on top of her until eventually the grave would be full again, in fact even a bit fuller than full, since after all the mound of earth on a grave is always round on top because of the body underneath, even if the body lies far below the surface, where no one can see. The body of an infant that has died unexpectedly produces hardly any roundness at all. But really the mound ought to be as huge as the Alps, she thinks, even though she's never seen the Alps with her own eyes.


From The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck ©2014. Published by New Directions.

Interviews with Jenny Erpenbeck

The German novelist discusses her book The End of Days. 53:03

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