The Wall

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“I can allow myself to write the truth; all the people for whom I have lied throughout my life are dead…” writes the heroine of Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall, a quite ordinary, unnamed middle-aged woman who awakens to find she is the last living human being. Surmising her solitude is the result of a too successful military experiment, she begins the terrifying work of not only survival, but self-renewal. The Wall is at once a simple and moving talk — of potatoes and beans, of hoping for a calf, of counting matches, of forgetting the taste of sugar

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“I can allow myself to write the truth; all the people for whom I have lied throughout my life are dead…” writes the heroine of Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall, a quite ordinary, unnamed middle-aged woman who awakens to find she is the last living human being. Surmising her solitude is the result of a too successful military experiment, she begins the terrifying work of not only survival, but self-renewal. The Wall is at once a simple and moving talk — of potatoes and beans, of hoping for a calf, of counting matches, of forgetting the taste of sugar and the use of one’s name — and a disturbing meditation on 20th century history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Chilling, fantastic, and deeply disturbing, The Wall is a modern classic."
She Magazine

"The novel and the film based upon Haushofer’s masterwork gets at something of the human condition that no other work of fiction does—the truth of yourself when you are the last remaining member of the human race."
—Julian Roman Pölsler

The Wall is a wonderful novel. It is not often that you can only say a woman could have written this book, but women in particular will understand the heroine’s loving devotion to the details of making and keeping life, every day felt as a victory against everything that would like to undermine and destroy. It is as absorbing as Robinson Crusoe.”—Doris Lessing

“This thoughtful eco-feminist novel (Austrian Haushofer’s English debut) comments on modern life by describing its end…A woman (who never gives her name) recalls the two and ahalf years she has spent in a hunting lodge, her only companions a dog, some cats, a cow and a calf. However this forest makes a rugged Eden, and the menace lurking in the background is deadlier than a snake.”—Publishers Weekly

“[The Wall] assumes the shape and flavor of a journal…intensely introspective, probing as deeply into the psyche of the woman as it does into her world, which circumstances have placed in a new light. Subtly surreal, by turns claustrophobic and exhilarating, fixated with almost religious fervor on banal detail, this is a disturbing yet rewarding tale in which survival and femininity are strikingly merged. Not for macho readers.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A compelling condemnation of the society that stifles individuals—and particularly women.”—Belle Lettres

“…A story of survival that makes for great appreciation of the tasks involved.”—The Minnesota Daily

“For those of us who champion the richness of women’s literature around the world, The Wall is a great find…a compelling tale, morally rich and politically vibrant. The images leave the reader with a dramatically altered perception of the substance of daily life. Expansive and haunting, The Wall is a chronicle of ordinary living in the realm of the unthinkable.”—New Words, Boston, Massachusetts

The Wall, written in the unmistakable voice of a self-reliant woman, has an almost silent cumulative effect. And all that silence adds up to something akin to a nuclear blast in the distance. I was impressed with the sustained tone and its ability to gently engage. The story is at once believable and inviting. The Wall is a sanctuary. I found it oddly inviting.”—Endicott Booksellers, New York, New York

“Like The Tin Drum, The Wall is a reconstitution of language and what it is to be human.”—Border’s Bookstore, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Wall could turn into a stead ‘cult classic’ in the ‘60s tradition.”—Regulator Bookshop, Durham, North Carolina"The Wall is gripping, please trust me, though why is still somewhat of a mystery to me. How does Haushofer make a woman’s minute reflections of being alone so fascinating? Haushofer writes cleanly and brilliantly, with masterful precision."
—New England Review

The Wall could turn into a stead ‘cult classic’ in the ‘60s tradition.”—Regulator Bookshop, Durham, North Carolina
The Wall is a challenging, disturbing, thought-provoking, beautiful book about the essentials in life. A really good book for a discussion group.”
— Charis Books, Atlanta

“The grippingly convincing tale of a lone woman’s survival in nature will appeal to many readers of feminist utopian fantasy or sci-fi literature.”
— The Women’s Review of Books

“Like J.M. Coetzee’s Life and Times of Richard K., this is life laid bare; the habits of everyday existence giving way to passages of the purest profundity.”
— Rod Richards, Bookslinger, Inc., St. Paul

The Wall poses a special and refreshing challenge to the imagination. Its appearance in English is long overdue.”

“Imagine Roninson Crusoe has landed On the Beach and you will have some idea of what the book is like.” — The Bloomsbury Review

“Thank goodness for Cleis Press, which recently reprinted this book, a fascinating, surreal tale of individual courage against impossible obstacles.”
— Square Books, Oxford, MS

“A celebration of the survival instinct.”
— Regulator Bookshop

“Frighteningly good. A book not only written with a feminist’s vision but with a novelist’s rare grace.”
—In Pittsburgh, Newsleekly

“It is a book that you will find yourself giving to family and friends, and one that you will re-read as your life changes and grows. It is a work of art that changes in scope and meaning each time you experience it. The Wall is a treasure. I recommend it to anyone wishing to be touched with awe and to be held in the hands of a gifted writer."
— Gay and Lesbian Resource Center

“More than 20 years after the author’s death, her voice still has the power to resonate. In fact, the book has been a feminist classic Europe since its publication in Germany in 1962.”
— New Directions for Women

Library Journal
Nearly forgotten after her death in 1970, Haushofer began to attract attention again when this novel was republished in the 1980s. Although it is described by the publisher as ``a startling redefinition of ecofeminist utopian fiction,'' this first-person narrative has been characterized by most commentators as dystopian. It tells of a woman vacationing in a remote mountain hunting lodge who survives an unexplained catastrophe in which (almost) all the rest of the human world perishes. Imprisoned on the mountainside by an invisible wall, the unnamed narrator recounts her struggle to survive and her attempt to discover the essence of her own personality, femininity, and humanity. The minimalist plot is enhanced by rich description and wise insight, and the translation succeeds in capturing the author's fluid, lyrical style. Recommended for general readers.-- Michael T. O'Pecko, Towson State Univ., Md.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573449069
  • Publisher: Cleis Press
  • Publication date: 6/11/2013
  • Edition description: Third Edition
  • Pages: 244
  • Sales rank: 298,602
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Marlen Haushofer was born on April 11, 1920 in Frauenstein, a region in Upper Austria. She attended Catholic boarding school in Linz, and studied German literature in Vienna and Graz. Her adult life was spent in Steyr, an old industrial city with a strong working class culture and a history of militancy. She died in 1970.

Haushofer published the novella “The Fifth Year” in 1952 and earned her first literary award in 1953. Her first novel, A Handful of Life, was published in 1955. The Wall, published in 1962, is considered her greatest literary achievement. Variously interpreted as an ironic Robinson Crusoe story, a philosophical parable of human isolation, and as dystopian fiction, The Wall is currently recognized for its important place in traditions of feminist fiction. Haushofers’s last novel, The Attic, was published in 1969. Her last short story collection, Terrible Faithfulness, brought her the Austrian state prize for literature. She has been translated into several European languages. The Wall is Haushofer’s only work available in English.

Julian Roman Pölsler directed the upcoming film adaptation of The Wall, and has been nominated for an Austrian Film Award for Best Director and Best Screenplay for the film. He also wrote the afterword for the latest edition of the book. He studied Directing and Production at the Vienna Film Academy as well as Directing and Dramaturgy at the Max Reinhardt Seminar, working among others as the assistant director to Axel Corti. Since 1990 he has been making TV movies and directing for the opera. Furthermore, he holds a teaching position at the Konservatorium of The City of Vienna in the Drama department and at the Institute for Computer Science & Media of the Vienna University of Technology. He lives and works in Vienna and Munich

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Read an Excerpt

The Wall

By Marlen Haushofer

Cleis Press

Copyright © 2012 Marlen Haushofer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781573449069

I sat down on a tree-trunk at the side of the road and tried to think. I couldn't. It was as if all my thoughts had abandoned me all at once. Lynx crept closer, and his bloody saliva dripped on to my coat. I stroked him until he calmed down. And then we both looked over to the road, so quiet and glistening in the morning light.

I stood up three more times and convinced myself that here, three yards from me, there really was something invisible, smooth and cool blocking my path. I thought it might be a hallucination, but of course I knew that it was nothing of the the kind. I could have coped much more easily with a momentary insanity than with this terrible, invisible thing. But there was Lynx with his bleeding mouth, and there was the bump on my head, which was begging to ache.

I don't know how long I stayed sitting on the tree-trunk, but I remember my thoughts kept hovering around quit trivial matters, as if they wanted to keep away at all costs from this incomprehensible experience.

The sun rose higher and warmed my back. Lynx licked and licked and finally stopped bleeding. He couldn't have hurt himself too badly.

I realized I had to do something, and ordered Lynx to sit. Then I carefully approached the invisible obstruction with outstretched hands and felt my way along it until I bumped into the last rock of the gorge. I couldn't get any further on that side. On the other side of the road I got as far as the stream, and only now did I notice that the stream was slightly dammed and was flooding its banks. Yet it wasn't carrying that much water. It had been dry all April and the snow had already thawed. On the other side of the wall - I've grown used to calling the thing the wall, because I had to give it some name or other now that it was there - on the other side, then, the bed of the stream was almost dry, and then the water flowed on in a trickle. t had obviously burrowed its way through the porous limestone. So the wall couldn't extend deep into the earth. A fleeting relief flashed through me. I didn't want to cross the blocked stream. There was no reason to believe the wall suddenly stopped, because then it would have been easy for Hugo and Luise to get back.

Suddenly I was struck by what might have been unconsciously worrying me the whole time: the fact that the road was entirely deserted. Someone would have raised the alarm ages ago. IT would have been natural for the villagers to gather inquisitively by the wall. Even if none of them had discovered the wall, Hugo and Luise would surely have bumped into it. The fact that there was not a single person to be seen struck me as even more puzzling than the wall.

I began to shiver in the bright sunshine. The first little farmhouse, only a cottage, in fact, was just around the next corner. If I crossed the stream and climbed up the mountain pasture a little, I would be able to see it.

I went back to Lynx and gave him a good talking to. He was very sensible, of course, and encouragement would have been much more appropriate. It was suddenly a great source of comfort to me that I had Lynx with me. I took off my shoes and socks and waded into the stream. On the other side the wall ran along the foot of the mountain pasture. At last I could see the cottage. It lay very still in the sunlight; a peaceful, familiar scene. A man stood by the spring, holding his right hand cupped halfway between the flowing water and his face. A clean old man. His braces hung around him like snakes, and he had rolled up his shirtsleeves. But his hand didn't get to his face. He wasn't moving at all.

I closed my eyes and waited, then looked again. The clean old man still stood motionless. I now saw that his knees and his left hand were resting on the edge of the stone trough; perhaps that was what stopped him falling over. Beside the house there was a little garden in which herbs grew along with peonies and bleeding-hearts. There was also a thin, tousled lilac bush that had already faded. It had been almost summery that April, even up here in the mountains. In the city even the peonies had faded. No smoke rose from the chimney.

I beat on the wall with my fist. It hurt a little, but nothing happened. And suddenly I no longer felt any desire to break down the wall separating me from the incomprehensible thing that had happened to the old man by the spring. Taking great care, I crossed the stream back to Lynx, who was sniffing at something and seemed to have forgotten his fear. It was a dead nuthatch, its head caved in and its breast flecked with blood. That nuthatch was the first in the long succession of little birds that met their deaths so pitifully one radiant May morning. For some reason I can never forget that nuthatch. While I was contemplating it, I noticed the plaintive cries of the birds. I must have been able to hear them for a long time before I was aware of them.

All of a sudden, all I wanted was to leave that place and get back to the hunting-lodge, away from those pitiful cries and the tiny, blood-smeared corpses. Lynx too had grown worried again, and pressed himself whining against me. On the way back through the forge he stayed close by my side, and I spoke to him reassuringly. I can't remember what I said, it just seemed important to break the silence in the murky, damp gorge, where greenish light seeped through the beech-tree leaves and tiny streams trickled down from the bare rocks on my left. We were in a bad situation, Lynx and I, and at the time we didn't know how bad it was. But we weren't lost entirely, because there were two of us.


Excerpted from The Wall by Marlen Haushofer Copyright © 2012 by Marlen Haushofer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2002

    A very unusual book that keeps you captivated !!

    I looked up what the critics said about this book before I started reading it and concluded that maybe it is not for me (with the words 'feminism', 'minimalism'). However I decided to give it a go and was rewarded with a great read. 'The Wall' offers a very unique story: the setting 'a woman is cut off from the world and is locked within an invisible wall, in a forest with her animals she has to survive' sounds like SF, but the book is not. It describes in a fascinating way how the main character a 40 year-old woman manages to stay alive in a patch of Austrian mountain-side that seems unaffected by whatever happened to the rest of the planet. A physical and psychological struggle of the character keeps you reading together with the promise of something dark, brooding.... If however you are looking to find whatever this dark element is you won't find a 'Stephen King' like story evolve, but rather Haushofer uses only a few lines at the end of the story to describe it. I won't give away the clue, but if you are waiting for answers at the end of the story I have to disappoint you; they are not there, rather Haushofer's writings forces you to think and come up with your own end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2013

    I'm not usually a fan of dystopian books, but there's something

    I'm not usually a fan of dystopian books, but there's something about this protagonist that really captured my attention.  I read this off the recommendation of a friend, and I'm so glad that I did! Marlen Haushofer nails this aching account of a woman who is the last man standing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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