Norbert Gstrein is a master when it comes to interweaving narratives into an ambigious, atmospheric tale. He receives this year’s Austrian Book Award for his novel WHEN I WAS YOUNG (Carl Hanser Verlag 2019). Amen! The novel received amazing press. One of the finest voices to be discovered!
And another Hanser author receives the honor for Best Debut 2019: Angela Lehner and her novel OUR FATHER (Hanser Berlin 2019)!
about WHEN I WAS YOUNG:
At the beginning there was just a kiss. But is there any such thing as just a kiss? It takes Franz many years to unravel the events of a single night during his youth. Hungry for life and longing for happiness, Franz ends up taking paths that throw doubt on every certainty.
Franz grows up in a backwater of Tirol and has to help his father organise weddings. He photographs couples “on the most beautiful day of their lives” – until one day, a bride dies at her party. Does it have anything to do with him? Or with the fact that he kissed a girl in the same place just a few weeks earlier? He flees to America to avoid these questions. But there, too, another death occurs – only this time, it’s Franz’s friend, who is also trying to balance possible violence with possible innocence. How much do we know about other people? Or of ourselves? This novel explores love and desire, independence and solitude, and asks existential questions with poetic precision.
about OUR FATHER:
She knows everything, gets whatever she wants and sees through everyone she meets. Except herself. She is a mental patient beyond comparison – hilarious and highly manipulative.
Here, in the psychiatric ward of an old Viennese hospital, was where the police brought Eva. And now she is telling chief psychiatrist Dr. Korb why it was inevitable. She tells him about her childhood in a staunchly Catholic village in southern Austria. And about her family life with her parents and younger brother Bernhard, whom she has to save at all costs. Her father is the only one whom she does not speak of well: in fact, she wants to kill him. At least that is what she says. Because sometimes it’s hard for the reader to tell the difference between the truth and her lies.
In her brilliant debut, Angela Lehner has created a highly unreliable first-person narrator – a scheming know-it-all, perhaps even homicidal. More than once, the reader faces the disturbing question: Who is this person and what is she up to?