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An aging botanist withdraws to the seclusion of his family’s vacation home in the German countryside. In his final days, he realizes that his life’s work of scientific classification has led him astray from the hidden secrets of the natural world. As his body slows and his mind expands, he recalls his family’s escape from budding fascism in Germany, his father’s need to prune and control, and his tender moments with first loves. But as his disintegration into moss begins, his fascination with botany culminates in a profound understanding of life’s meaning and his own mortality.

Visionary and poetic, Moss explores our fundamental human desires for both transcendence and connection and serves as a testament to our tenuous and intimate relationship with nature.

Klaus Modick is an award-winning author and translator who has published over a dozen novels as well as short stories, essays, and poetry. His translations into German include work by William Goldman, William Gaddis, and Victor LaValle, and he has taught at Dartmouth College, Middlebury College, and several other universities in the United States, Japan, and Germany. Moss, Modick’s debut novel, is his first book to be published in English. He lives in Oldenburg, Germany.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Reading Group Choices “Editors’ Pick” selection
Arts Fuse “Recommended Books of the Year” selection
Words Without Borders “Watchlist” selection

“[Moss] opens with the death of a renowned botanist, whose . . . hypnotic reflections and biographical recollections disavow the ‘botanist’s penetrating gaze’—its ‘classifications without real knowledge’—to arrive at a rejuvenating, anarchic conception of the natural world.” —Millions

“A powerful exercise in eco-fiction. . . . Modick’s writing, at its best, presents the ‘mossifcation’ of the mind, combining clinical observation with philosophical lyricism.” —Arts Fuse

“[Moss] taps into a host of humanitarian and ecological concerns, even as it reminds the reader of the complex web of connections humans dwell within.” —Words Without Borders

“A masterful examination of internal conflict, gratifying for readers inspired by ecofiction and literary theory. . . . Inner explorations transform into a Weltanschauung of epiphany and new understanding of love, death, and the natural world.” —Booklist

“A graceful, thought-provoking portrait of memory and mortality.” —Publishers Weekly

“Thoughtful and thought-provoking.” —Midwest Book Review

Publishers Weekly


German novelist and translator Modick’s thoughtful English-language debut takes the form of a journal discovered after the death of a retired botanist. At a rundown cabin in Ammerland, Germany, the body of Lukas Ohlburg is found covered in moss, as is the interior of the lodge. His final project, a tract criticizing the scientific terminology of modern botany, remains unfinished, as his efforts were instead channeled into a journal in which he links the life cycle of moss with final reflections on his own life. Modick meanders through the short tale, moving quietly and meditatively through the details of Ohlburg’s memory: his father’s relentless efforts to stop the encroaching forest from reclaiming their property, his first sexual experiences, his friendship with his younger brother, and their family’s flight from the Nazi regime. After each topic, Ohlburg returns to the condition of the moss. Modick skimps on story, but he’s a skilled prose stylist, and in the capable hands of Herman he conjures a graceful, thought-provoking portrait of memory and mortality. “One could say that is always only pondering its own past,” Ohlburg’s journal reads. “Its present, however, is pure, humble beauty.” Though the book might not stay with readers, Modick’s insightful tale is pleasant while it lasts. (Aug.)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781942658726
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
Publication date: 08/25/2020
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 583,439
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x (d)

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