The Tobacconist is a hugely accomplished study of human nature set during the years leading up to World War II in Vienna.
Berlin-based Austrian Seethaler gives you a sense of what living life under the Nazis was like, but without any of the cliches.
Seen through the eyes of Franz, a young man from the Austrian Lake District to whom everything is new, the novel is as much about first love and coming of age as it is about society on the brink of imploding.
The novel follows Franz as he starts work in a Tobacconists shop and befriends Professor Freud who opens his eyes to the world with surprising results.
The contrast between the impetuousness and lust for life of youth in Franz and the wisdom and acceptance of old age in Freud is incredibly effective.
Seethaller’s sentences shimmer and stream through the novel like the waters of the lake. Beautifully evocative, sparse prose left me feeling deeply moved.
It’s as much what is not said and what is not shown to the reader that grips. Both Seethaler and his translator Charlotte Collins deserve strong recognition.
Published by Picador