On a Day Like This

On a Day Like This

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by Peter Stamm, Michael Hofmann

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A new novel of artful understatement about mortality, estrangement, and the absurdity of life from the acclaimed author of Unformed Landscape and In Strange Gardens

On a day like any other, Andreas changes his life. When a routine doctor’s visit leads to an unexpected prognosis, a great yearning takes hold of him—but who can tell


A new novel of artful understatement about mortality, estrangement, and the absurdity of life from the acclaimed author of Unformed Landscape and In Strange Gardens

On a day like any other, Andreas changes his life. When a routine doctor’s visit leads to an unexpected prognosis, a great yearning takes hold of him—but who can tell if it is homesickness or wanderlust? Andreas leaves everything behind, sells his Paris apartment; cuts off all social ties; quits his teaching job; and waves goodbye to his days spent idly sitting in cafes—to look for a woman he once loved, half a lifetime ago. The monotony of days has been keeping him in check; now he hopes for a miracle and for a new beginning.

Andreas’ travels lead him back to the province of his youth, back to his hometown in Switzerland where he returns to familiar streets, where his brother still lives in their childhood home, and where Fabienne, a woman he was obsessed with in his youth, visits the same lake they once swam in together. Andreas, still consumed with longing for his lost love and blinded by the uncertainty of his future, is tormented by the question of what might have been if things had happened differently.

Peter Stamm has been praised as a “stylistic ascetic” and his prose as “distinguished by lapidary expression, telegraphic terseness, and finely tuned sensitivity” (Bookforum). In On a Day Like This, Stamm’s unobtrusive observational style allows us to journey with our antihero through his crises of banality, of living in his empty world, and the realization that life is finite—that one must live it, as long as that is possible.

Praise for Unformed Landscape:

“Sensitive and unnerving. . . . An uncommonly intimate work, one that will remind the reader of his or her own lived experience with a greater intensity than many of the books that are published right here at home.” —The New Republic Online

“If Albert Camus had lived in an age when people in remote Norwegian fishing villages had e-mail, he might have written a novel like this.”—The New Yorker

“Unformed Landscape has a refreshing purity, a lack of delusion, a lack of hype.”—Los Angeles Times

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“What Peter Stamm has done with this novel is recreate life in all of its quiet banality—this is art… Stamm's achievement isn't the mere weaving of a story, it's the report of a life in quiet crisis.” –Review of Contemporary Fiction
Publishers Weekly

In the quiet but evocative latest from Swiss writer Stamm (Unformed Landscape), Andreas, a 40-something Swiss expatriate, teaches German in Paris and spends much of his time musing over Fabienne, the lost love of his youth, while sleeping with women he doesn't much like. Andreas thinks of himself as quiet and passive, and is thus surprised by the intensity of his reaction when told he may have a serious lung disorder. He reacts by allowing a casual affair with 24-year-old Delphine (a teaching colleague who had briefly been involved with Andreas's best friend, Jean-Marc), to intensify. He tells Delphine about his illness; she reciprocates by taking care of him as he recovers from surgery. The two seem poised to take a chance on one another, but Andreas's fidelity to Fabienne is still to be reckoned with. Andreas's sorrows and changing perspectives are surprisingly powerful in this muted, thoughtful novel of second chances. (July)

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Library Journal

Swiss author Stamm's latest novel (after Unformed Landscape) describes a few months in the life of Andreas, a secondary school teacher and confirmed bachelor. This glimpse at one man's midlife crisis is a mediation on what it means to be lonely. Sitting in a doctor's office awaiting the results of a biopsy, Andreas has an epiphany. Dissatisfied with the banality of his life, he decides to quit his job, sell his apartment, end his romantic affairs, and leave Paris for good. He heads to his childhood home in Switzerland and an ill-fated reunion with his first love. Andreas's completely unrealistic self-perception (illustrated with subtle irony by his language-teaching materials) makes up for his being far from sympathetic as a protagonist. Stamm's narrative is both insightful and dreamy, his fluid prose rendered adeptly by award-winning translator Hofmann. And while the novel's ending is unexpected (and, some might argue, inappropriate), it is not unwelcome. Appropriate for large fiction collections.
—Karen Walton Morse

Kirkus Reviews
The Swiss author (stories: In Strange Gardens, 2006, etc.) examines a barren life in his latest novel. Andreas, a German-speaking Swiss man, has been living alone in Paris for some 18 years, teaching German in a suburban school. He has been dating Nadia, who mouths off about politics and her ex-husband; funny, he never feels close to her. As a diversion he fits in Sylvie, a married woman with kids. Both women leave him feeling empty, but that's okay; "[e]mptiness was his life in this city," and he's comfortable with it. His philosophy is not to get too involved in relationships, even ordinary friendships; he finds it "grotesque" that his best friend is gym teacher Jean-Marc. Returning to Switzerland for his father's funeral, he finds he has no connection to the dead man, and is unmoved by the rituals of mourning. Religion is for the birds; the only thing he believes in is chance. In this study of anomie there are echoes of The Stranger, though Stamm's novel has none of the power or the eventfulness of the Camus classic. Only one person has meant anything to Andreas: Fabienne, a Frenchwoman he met in his Swiss village when young. He followed her to Paris, but never declared his love. The story turns on Andreas's persistent coughing, which leads to a biopsy. Does he have lung cancer? Declining to get the results, he decides to start over, "running away from the disease that was his life." He quits his job, sells his apartment, dumps Nadia and Sylvie and even exhibits an entertaining mean streak. He returns to his native village with the much younger Delphine, a trainee teacher, though he doesn't reciprocate her feelings for him, and has an inconclusive reunion with Fabienne, now awife and mother, before he hits the road again. There is an upbeat ending which doesn't ring true. Andreas's condition does not seem authentic in this mannered treatment.

Product Details

Other Press, LLC
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5.38(w) x 7.74(h) x 0.89(d)

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Meet the Author

Peter Stamm

Peter Stamm was born in 1963, in Weinfelden, Switzerland. He is the author of the novel, Agnes (1998), and numerous short stories and radio plays. He lives outside of Zurich.

Michael Hofmann

Michael Hofmann has translated Bertolt Brecht, Joseph Roth, Patrick S, Herta Mueller, and Franz Kafka. He won the Translators' Association's Schlegel-Tieck Prize twice in 1988 for his adaptation of The Double Bass by Patrick S (1987), and in 1993 for his rendering of Wolfgang Koeppen's Death in Rome (1992). In 1999 he won the PEN/Book of the Month Club Translation Prize for The String of Pearls. His translation of his father's novel The Film Explainer, by Gert Hofmann, won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 1995. He has written and translated more than 35 books, winning eight awards for his translations and his poetry.

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On a Day Like This 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago