Stellaby Takis Wuerger Translated from German by Liesl Schillinger
From the internationally bestselling author of The Club comes a new novel of love and betrayal, set in Berlin in 1942
In 1942, Friedrich, an even-keeled but unworldly young man, arrives in Berlin from bucolic Switzerland with dreams of becoming an artist. At a life drawing class, he is hypnotized by the beautiful model, Kristin, who soon becomes his energetic yet enigmatic guide to the bustling and cosmopolitan city, escorting him to underground jazz clubs where they drink cognac, dance, and kiss. The war feels far away to Friedrich, who falls in love with Kristin as they spend time together in his rooms at the Grand Hotel, but as the months pass, the mood in the city darkens as the Nazis tighten their hold on Berlin, terrorizing any who are deemed foes of the Reich.
One day, Kristin comes back to Friedrich’s rooms in tears, battered and bruised. She tells him that her real name is Stella, and that she is Jewish, passing for Aryan. More disturbing still, she has troubling connections with the Gestapo that Friedrich does not fully understand. As Friedrich confronts Stella’s unimaginable choices, he finds himself woefully unprepared for the history he is living through. Based in part on a real historical character, Stella sets a tortured love story against the backdrop of wartime Berlin, and powerfully explores questions of naiveté, young love, betrayal, and the horrors of history.
“Takis Würger is someone out of the ordinary and this book is like him: powerful, strong, painful. Stella is a book from which we do not emerge unscathed and in which he explores the depths of the human soul. I stayed in this book for a long time after turning the final page. Würger is surely one of the most important writers of our generation.”—Joël Dicker, New York Times bestselling author of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair
“For those who wish to find in history a key to our absolutist present.”—Il Giornale (Italy)
“Stella is a book you can hardly put down. You will read it in just a few hours, whatever you might have planned… It has a style which in a certain way echoes Hemingway’s war reporting—you might call it ‘melancholy heroism.’ But it reads very well, you can’t say otherwise.”—Die Welt (Germany)
“Würger avoids any hint of pathos, writing instead in clearly chiseled, artfully sparse sentences… It is the escalating state of emergency that explains everything in this slimmed down, concise novel.”—Abendzeitung München (Germany)
“The gritty subject matter is juxtaposed against a prose style we tend to associate with a different kind of novel—it reads more like a coming-of-age story than a thriller. Würger’s writing is mannered; it often has an otherworldly, fable-like quality.”—Adelle Waldman, New York Times Book Review
“Würger’s debut was a bestseller in his native Germany. Its universal themes, brilliantly depicted world and taut storytelling constitute a recipe for further success… The Club starts out as a poignant coming-of-age tale and then morphs into an intelligent, fast-paced thriller that scrutinizes class divides and gender imbalance… Würger serves up visceral thrills with boxing bouts. But he delivers real knockout blows as Hans goes deeper undercover and learns ‘what humans are at heart: predators.’”—Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A timely, beautifully paced novel about class and prestige in the #MeToo era… In a campus novel that echoes the detective structure of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Würger cycles between each character’s voice to brilliantly evoke the medieval unreality of Cambridge and the almost comical wealth of the students. There is much to dissect in this concise and dramatic tale.”—Booklist
“A young man infiltrates a secret university club and discovers a dangerous secret… The club is full of rich, privileged young men well-versed in secrets, debauchery, and something far more sinister… The novel’s complicated ending touches on the problem of justice and redemption: who gets it, who deserves it, and its human cost. A sparse, cutting debut in which violence begets violence begets healing.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Distinguished German journalist Würger, who broke some bones boxing for a year at Cambridge, offers a powerful and provoking story.”—Library Journal
“A cunning, sinuous tale, Takis Würger’s The Club is so wildly entertaining that, at first, it’s easy to miss its deeper mysteries. But, as it unfolds, brutal truths about class and gender and violence emerge, take hold and shudder through the novel’s final pages.”—Megan Abbott, best-selling author of Give Me Your Hand and You Will Know Me
“The Club, Takis Würger’s exquisite debut, is a novel as rare as a phoenix, a story both beautifully told and white-knuckle thrilling. A tale of pain, privilege and revenge, The Club reads like something both mythical and modern, a fable whose pages demand to be turned.”—Christopher J. Yates, author of Black Chalk and Grist Mill Road