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Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  272 ratings  ·  59 reviews
In Rome one January afternoon in 1943, a young German woman is on her way to listen to a Bach concert at the Lutheran church. The war is for her little more than a daydream, until she realizes that her husband might never return. Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman, winner of the prestigious Georg B�chner prize, is a mesmerizing psychological portrait of the human need ...more
Paperback, 119 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux-3pl (first published 2006)
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3.39  · 
Rating details
 ·  272 ratings  ·  59 reviews


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switterbug (Betsey)
This brief, evocative novella takes place during a late afternoon stroll in 1943. A very young, pregnant German woman is separated from her husband, who is stationed in North Africa during World War II. She is staying in Rome, in a guest room in a hospital for the elderly, run by German nuns in what seems to be the Prati neighborhood, between Vatican City and the historic center. Her obstetrician instructs her to "walk, young lady, walk" for the health of the child, soon to be born.

Margaret look
...more
Roger Brunyate
A Walk Through Rome

Friedrich Christian Delius is the winner of Germany's highly prestigious Georg-Büchner Prize, but this, I believe, is the first of his books to be translated into English. And a very fluid translation too, by Jamie Bulloch—important in that the whole novella, though divided into paragraphs, is a single run-on sentence, a third-person stream of consciousness that is virtually impossible to stop reading.

"Walk, young lady, walk if you want to walk, the child will like it if you w
...more
Friederike Knabe
Jan 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german-lit
The doctor's sound advice to the heavily pregnant young woman, "walk if you like, the child will enjoy it too...", provides Friedrich Christian Delius, renowned German author and 2011 recipient of the most prestigious German language literary award, the Georg-Büchner-Preis, with a unique opening and an overall frame for his novella, "Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman". The book is unusual in several ways, both in content and in structure. I felt immediately drawn into the story, for person ...more
Andrew
Mar 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel in a single sentence. That was what intrigued me about this book. To be honest I generally avoid World War Two books - not because I don't think it's important, but just because I feel as if I have already overdosed on books, films, TV programmes etc etc exploring every angle of the war, and I'd need a really good reason to read about that again, rather than any of the infinite number of other places and times. The innovative narrative structure gave me that reason.

It turns out, however,
...more
Chrissie
Dec 03, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, hf, germany, disliked, swap
NO SPOILERS

On completion: This is a very short novel, and it only shows how perhaps one young, pregnant German woman might have viewed the world around her. It takes place during WW2. She is in Rome and she doesn't think there is any value in learning the language. In my opinion she is extremely naive. She criticizes other religions. Religion is very important to her; it gives her solace, it helps her when she has problems. I don't criticize this, but I have difficulty relationg to such a person
...more
Louise
This book is written in ONE, very, very, long sentence. The whole book. One sentence. 125 pages. One sentence. But it works. It's poetic. Although I feel the need for periods right now. Many periods. Periods everywhere. This stream of consciousness however wasn't particularly absorbing. Period.
Claire McAlpine
An eight month pregnant young wife of a German solider waits for him in Rome only for him to be redeployed immediately. She walks to the Lutheran Church to listen to a Bach concert and on her way thinks about her life there, how it has changed, how distant she feels from everything around her and remembers the few moments she has spent with her husband and wonders whether he will return to her or not.

She is not despondent for she has a deep faith and whenever her thoughts selfishly turn towards
...more
Nina
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translated
Portrait of a Mother as a Young Woman is one long 117-page long sentence, in a third-person stream of consciousness. It took me a few pages to realise! Sounds painful, right? But actually the translation by Jamie Bulloch is fluid and poetic.

The novella follows a young German Nazi supporter Margherita's internal monologue as she walks through occupied Rome one day in 1943 during WWII.

I felt like I understood Margherita and her world, the naivety and contradictions of her thoughts and feelings f
...more
Johnna | abookinmybag
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reading-rush
★★★★☆

This 1-sentence, 119 page book invoked so much conflicting thought!
BeccaAudra Smith
The Joycean title drew me to this book, as Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is one book I actually put down and stopped reading I was so repelled by the sermon style sin talk. It's pretty rare I don't finish so titles that rip it off somehow feel like it's a second chance.

The mother in the story is in her eight month of pregnancy, and we follow her thoughts in an interior monologue with no full stops. It is described as a 117 page long sentence due to this device. The rhythm of it carries
...more
Kathleen Jones
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A young girl is stranded in Rome by the war. Her Pastor husband has been posted to north Africa - a bare two days after her arrival - and she’s alone and in the last month of her pregnancy. She lives with protestant German nuns, sharing a room with another woman whose fiancé has been interned in Australia. The Italians are unwelcoming, and the war is going badly, but the girl has no desire to return to northern Germany and the frugal, evangelical territory of her childhood. Instead she waits, fo ...more
Thing Two
What interests me the most in this novella is the sentence structure, since there is only one really long sentence! And yet, it didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of this story of a young, newly-wed, pregnant woman, alone in Rome during World War II, as her husband is in Algeria fighting the Americans. The story is evidently of Delius' mother, who was pregnant in Rome during World War II. I don't often get to see the vision of WWII through the eyes of a German, but I understood her fear of Am ...more
Mandy
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Found this quite compelling - and felt quite breathless by the end! A whole book in one sentence is quite an achievement!
Ingrid Wassenaar
I really wanted to like this novella, but I'm afraid I found its so-called technical innovation (written in a single sentence) an affectation. I realise I must be deficient in something, but I much prefer the artistry behind Woolf's stream of consciousness. I also found the protagonist difficult to stay with -- it is the portrait of a stifled consciousness in wartime, trying to grapple with an fascistic ideology that subjects her to imprisonment and subjugation of every kind, while announcing to ...more
Christina
Creeping uncertainty leaves Margherita uncomfortable with her new surroundings, and she spends the walk trying to reorient her thoughts to a happier, propaganda-filled view of Italy as a society and of Germany’s future. Margherita’s default to naivety makes for a contemplative read: Is this a form of self-preservation, the last influence of Nazi propaganda, or both? Did the Nazi adoption of religious iconography, which Margherita realizes in the course of her walk, make her as a religious person ...more
Nicola
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a strange little novella. Written as a stream of consciousness in one long run on sentence. It focuses on a young woman, 8 months pregnant and separated from her spouse who is a German soldier during WW2. The woman is spending her day in the protected city of Rome, living with nuns and walking the city as her doctor tells her that walking is good for the baby. Not much actually happens, she inwardly questions the war and purposefully does not to speak out loud against the Fuhrer and the ...more
Carolyn
A young woman with child is advised by her doctor to walk for the health of her and her unborn child. As she walks in and near WW2 areas, she tells us about it from her own P.O.V. It may seem narrow minded or even self centered to some, but I feel there is yet a deeper story in this novella saying look this is what it looks like and what can one do about such horrors when protecting ones own..I liked this book.
Yvonne O'connor
An odd format - very stream-of-consciousness. Odder still that this was written in 2006 and is set in 1942 - it feels older and contemporary with writings of the 1950’s. But, it is s translation from German, so perhaps that is the reason? If you’re looking for any real “story”, you won’t find it here, but it will give you lots to ponder.
Sam Davison
I liked this book despite getting a tad impatient towards the end. A young German girl walks through war time Rome to a concert. Along the way, she reglects on the differences between Pritestanism and Catholicism, between religion and the NaXi ethos, about her unborn child etc.
Rebecca
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This really is an extraordinary little book. Not at all what i expected and it took a few pages for me to get into it but it got better and better. It is one sentence. That's right one sentence and it read like the flow of a river.
Vikki Gremel
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Translates from German.
Good book - threw me off at first since it is one giant sentence separated only by commas.
It is a pregnant German woman’s stream of consciousness during WWII while her Nazi husband is off fighting in Africa.
Makes you think about the “other side” of the war.
Erin Lyn
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
It was an okay read probley better in the OG language
Alecksa
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you’ve ever been to Rome, this will beautifully reanimate the stone streets of your memory.
Eileen
In 1943 Friedrich Delius's mother was twenty-one, alone, and eight months pregnant in Rome, waiting in a kind of limbo for the return of her husband from North Africa. The product of an austere Lutheran upbringing, she is innocent and naïve and prefers to trust that everything is in God's hands. She worries about her freethinking roommate Ilse, who converses with the Italian servants and has the habit of broaching subjects that make the young mother uncomfortable. It is now January and she has b ...more
Kelsey Whelan
This book is one long sentence, a fairly accurate representation of the strange string of thoughts you have on a long walk, or the letters you begin to draft in your head to a loved one throughout the day. While I appreciate the novelty of the formatting (seriously, there is only one period in the entire text) I found it difficult to stay engaged because of the main character's tangential thoughts and only worked through it because I signed up for the Good Reads yearly book challenge.

My one pos
...more
Fernando
Mar 19, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe, germany
From my Instagram account @Onebookonecountry

#Reading the one long sentence that is Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman takes us to the kind of moments when we are alone with our #thoughts and don't want anyone around to know how we are feeling.

In this #novella, Delius, still in his mother's womb, accompanies young Margherita in a stroll through Nazi-occupied #Rome in 1943. She is alone in a foreign city without speaking the language. Everything around her feels hostile yet she does not despa
...more
David Hebblethwaite
Another fine novella from Peirene Press, this one translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch. Margherita is a young German woman who came to Rome to be with her soldier husband Gert, only for him shortly after to be sent to Africa in the aftermath of El Alamein. Now, in 1943, she is alone in Rome, unable to speak Italian, but grateful for the small German enclave which surrounds her. We follow Margherita as she makes her way to a Bach concert, and reflects on her situation.

At a structural level
...more
Alej
Mar 04, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Slim title by German writer Delius that follows a young 21 year old 8 month pregnant German woman living in Rome during January 1943. Her husband is in North Africa and she awaits his return to Rome once his deployment is done. The entire book is a running narration of the hour-long walk through the streets of Rome from her home to a charch to attend a Bach concert. Other than commas and some slashes there is no punctuation, no capitalization. She never speaks directly to anyone but the internal ...more
Kamila
Dec 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Neither the story nor protagonist will haunt you emotionally, as some war novels do, but it is this subtlety that makes the book so remarkable, precisely capturing the bubble the protagonist inhabits. The title, a nod to Joyce, hints at the style the novel is written in - a stream of consciousness that is, however, decidedly readable. The story follows a young German woman one afternoon in January, 1943, as she sets off on a long walk to attend a church concert. Eight ...more
Liviu
A book in a long sentence though the commas more than supplant the periods so this structure seems more like a gimmick in many ways than something truly innovative or unusual.

Another book that took me a while to get and for which the reviews (lots of praise) promised more than it delivered.

The mixture of the personal and the global, of the intimate fears and the fear of God and retribution for what Germany wrought in the war all in the thoughts of the young pregnant wife of a German soldier wal
...more
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Friedrich Christian Delius (born 1943) is an acclaimed German writer.

He was born in Rome and grew up in Wehrda and Korbach in the state of Hesse. He studied German literature at the Free University and the Technical University in Berlin. He graduated in 1970 and went to work in publishing. Between 1970 and 1978, he worked at the publishing firms Klaus Wagenbach and Rotbuch.

He has published more th
...more