Back to Backby Julia Franck
“Franck’s unsparing novel, superbly translated by Anthea Bell, tells a moving story of suffering down the generations in East Berlin.” —Guardian
Julia Franck’s German Book Prize-winning novel The Blindness of the Heart was an international phenomenon, selling 850,000 copies in Germany alone, and was published in thirty-five countries. Her newest work, Back to Back, is the moving story of two unhappy children in communist East Germany in the 1950s and 1960s—a sharp portrayal of how totalitarianism can poison the family along with the rest of society.
As the book opens, Thomas and Ella, age ten and eleven, are home alone—their mother Käthe, a sculptor, has left them unaccompanied for two weeks. As they grow up in this loveless family, Thomas and Ella find solace in each other—they sit back-to-back and strain to recall early memories of their father, who fled to West Germany after the war, and daydream of a life where they could have the kind of childhood other children enjoy. Thomas and Ella find strength through their powerful bond with each other—but faced with such a hostile world, will this be enough?
“Set in East Germany during the 1950s and ’60s, this haunting novel depicts the constricted, oppressed lives of people living under the brutal policies of the country’s Communist government. . . . Thomas and Ella are little more than slaves to their mother, Käthe, a sculptor with a massive ego and deluded ideas about the triumph of the workers in the class struggle, while she herself lives in bourgeois comfort. . . . Heartbreaking reality.” —Publishers Weekly
“The psychological toll of living behind the Berlin Wall is one [Franck] conveys powerfully in Back to Back. . . . The world she chronicles in the novel is one of many shades of gray, a place where violence radiates outward from its immediate victims to shatter lives once- or twice-removes from the original harm.” —Words Without Borders
“[Franck] is an outstanding talent of the Germany literary landscape.” —Stuttgarter Zeitung
“The author creates so many apt and impressive images that the intensity of her prose is almost painful.” —Brigitte Woman magazine
“Taking on the family demons has become something of a literary project for the raven-haired, soft-voicesd author, who, at 43, ranks among Germany’s most respected–and fearless–novelists. . . . Spellbinding . . . [One particular scene is] masterly in its control . . . utterly gothic, impossible to forget.” –—Megan O’Grady, Vogue.com
“Intoxicating”a curious fusion of stark realism tempered with quirkily stylistic flights of fancy: the trademark of one of Germany’s finest contemporary novelists.” —Malcolm Forbes, Literary Review< "Nightmarish visions . . . Franck explores oppression at a time when the wall was being erected and change was nowhere in sight." —Guardian
“Like an expert geologist, Franck is digging deep into her family’s extraordinary history creating things of great beauty from its dark recesses. Diamond-hard and full of glittering prose, Back to Back is a powerful and moving book. I suspect there are more gems to come.” —Daily Telegraph
“Mournful and intense, Back to Back captures a slice of life during a particularly harsh and brutal time and place, through the lens of a quickly disintegrating childhood innocence.” —Bust Magazine
An Amazon Best of the Month in Fiction (December 2013)