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3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,333 ratings  ·  136 reviews
"Er aß und trank, bürstete seine Kleider ab, leerte den Sand aus seinen Taschen und überprüfte noch einmal die Innentasche des Blazers. Er wusch sich unter dem Tisch die Hände mit ein wenig Trinkwasser, goß den Rest über seine geplagten Füße und schaute die Straße entlang. Sandfarbene Kinder spielten mit einem sandfarbenen Fußball zwischen sandfarbenen Hütten. Dreck und ze ...more
Hardcover, 482 pages
Published 2011 by Rowohlt
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Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,333 ratings  ·  136 reviews

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Glenn Russell
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

German artist and novelist Wolfgang Herrndorf (1965-2013)

Bizarre, wacky, comical, offbeat, eccentric, quizzical, weird are among the ways reviewers have described Wolfgang Herrndorf’s stunning, highly entertaining crime thriller that has been baffling readers ever since its original publication in 2011.

That being said, I’m here to report good news – this New York Review Books (NYRB) edition contains an illuminating Afterward by German literary scholar Michael Maar. Afterward rather than Introduc
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ex-is-ten-tial thrill-er, the hoity-toidy: like a noir in that there is typically one or more dead bodies around and also usually a sleuth (though not always a cop) trying to figure things out, but where the mystery to be solved is not culpability but identity, such that the question the novel asks is not whodunit? but, rather, whoamI?

That's my working definition and it works here, especially so because the main protagonist gets amnesia (or not) and the bulk of the novel is his at
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hanneke by: Glenn Russell
An utterly bizarre thriller set near a port city in Morocco in 1972, but one cannot be sure of the location as it could be somewhere else on the North African coast. The fact that the location is unknown is typical of the book, as it is nowhere revealed where the story takes place, in what desert the characters roam around and who anybody is. To know nothing at all about anything is the point of this thriller. The story is told from the viewpoint of a protagonist who suffers from amnesia and can ...more
Jun 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nyrb
Not until I read the brilliant critique by Michael Maar in the Afterword to the NYRB edition of Sand did I appreciate the giftedness of Wolfgang Herrndorf. Still I’m left wondering about the merit of a book whose plot is so enigmatic I need to read it again.

Although I fail to see the artfulness of the plot, I most certainly appreciate the descriptive detail... whether of the heat of the sand or the sound of Helen’s voice. As Mann says, Herrndorf started out as a painter and his attention to colo
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies
Excellent and horrible - parts of it are reminiscent of what James Bond might have been like if Fleming had been a decent writer; parts of it are like desert Le Carré; quite a bit of it is like surreal, blackly-comic Greene. You have no idea what's happening for the first hundred pages and then it all clicks, the characters' relations to each other make sense, and you're off. Gloriously, there are no good guys, except perhaps for our amnesiac protagonist, who takes his name (Carl) from the desig ...more
Marina Sofia
What on earth have I just read? I thought this would be exactly my kind of book, a mix of thriller, clever post-colonial commentary, sarcastic post-modern deconstruction of a novel... but it's a bit of a confusing mess. At first I thought maybe it was because I was reading it in translation, but it felt like it had the consistency of treacle. It's got some brilliantly funny passages and ideas, but overall it was not tempting me to return to it. I read it more out of a sense of duty, because I ha ...more
Jun 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, thriller
A German nihilist thriller is a new experience for me. I did spend most of the book either thinking this was probably better in German, or more generally what is actually happening. Amnesia very confusing. But all in all a really good book. Who knew nihilist thrillers would work so well.
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mike by: Dan Rosenblum
Shelves: germany

I should probably clarify- my friend Dan did not recommend this novel to me.  What happened is that we were in a bookstore together, he decided to buy it (the store's only copy), and, because it looked promising (contemporary German author, NYRB, nice cover, the synopsis mentioned the 1972 Munich Olympics), I ordered it when I got home.  We decided we’d read it together and compare notes. Or maybe I decided.  Well, the only problem with that idea was that Dan had a normal week of soul-draining w
James Murphy
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sand is a wild ride of a novel. It's mostly a literary thriller and a dark comedy. It's inhabited by hippies, police, the agents of foreign governments, criminals, and those who represent terrorist organizations. They all revolve around a hero who suffers from memory loss caused by a knock on the head. He has something they all want, if he could only remember what it is, and why. The prose brims with brio, and the plot is channeled to compel the reader to follow eagerly as it tumbles through int ...more
Kasa Cotugno
In an afterward, Michael Maar writes "Herrndorf has written the greatest, grisliest, funniest and wisest novel of the past decade." Well put. In search of something completely different, I picked this up and was rewarded, but that reward came with a cost. First, its difference makes it hard to quantify, difficult to categorize. Then, its puzzles hold the reader's attention, but many are left unresolved. Also, its intricacies require close attention, and when clues are presented, they are not alw ...more
Angus McKeogh
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Never a dull moment. Full of questions and mysteries. Am I supposed to be rooting for any individual here? Are any of these characters redeemable? Is anyone who they say they are? Knocks on religion in all its forms. Grotesque. A love story. Idiots. Crazies. Intrigue. Humor. I have The New York Review of Books Classics Library to thank for the introduction to this book, I would never have even looked at it before that. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Just a really, really good book.
Gary Homewood
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Clever and intricately plotted noir-ish thriller in pacey chapters with varied cryptic epigraphs, set in 70s Africa. None of the vivid detail is superfluous. Spys, amnesia, loss of identity and violence. A gripping read, occasionally nihilistic, strange, sometimes funny, with interesting complex characters. Like a unique, filmic, post-modernist systems novel without the pretence.

Get the NYRB edition, it has a great afterword essay.
Daniel Polansky
An amnesiac finds himself at the heart of international political intrigue in the Sahara. An anti-genre novel which utilizes classical tropes as aesthetic weapons, basically, forcing the reader to confront the absurdity of the format. I found the essential nihilism – this is the sort of book where every success is immediately followed by a reversal, and no one ever, for instance, enjoys a sandwich – exhausting. Not that I disagree with it on principal, particularly, but it’s limiting for a narra ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not sure if this book is brilliantly plotted or brilliantly structured, maybe both? I think both. It is just about the most airtight thing I've read...but the menace of it is that, until the last 60 pages or so, as the reader's memory begins to fit one Thing to Another--and memory is paramount here, the protagonist loses his, and the central mystery, out of which two dozen others unfurl, is who exactly he is--the menacing thing about Sand is that it wants you to think it's a mess, that no order ...more
Andy Weston
Herrndorf’s second translated novel (from German) is very different to his first, and less my cup of tea. This is a spy thriller set in the North African desert in the 1970s. At first there appear to be two story lines. The first being that of a man accused of killing 4 foreigners from a hippy commune with the local police investigating, seeming like it will be a police based crime story. The second being a man suffering from amnesia who may well be a spy (he isn’t sure), encountering some unple ...more
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
Beautifully written but hard to care about any of the characters.
Told in multiple voices in short chapters, each presenting a piece of the story and perhaps a mystery of their own brings a unique challenge to this read, and demands that careful attention is paid, even when a chapter seems superfluous, or many clues will be lost. Oh who am I kidding – clues are lost, hidden, twisted, presented and disabused with regularity: adding to the ‘what have I just read” sense of the story, without making me want to turn away.

See Herrndorf has presented readers with a
Mar 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
I just can't get into this book. It's a pity though because I really wanted to like it. Tschick was very moving and entertaining but I just can't relate to any of the characters in this one and the writing is not really evocative enough for me... maybe I'll try another time. At the moment I'm just more interested in other books. ...more
I liked the very clever construction of this novel, but, on the other hand, it's almost certainly the most depressing novel I've ever read, and that's saying something! I initially had a little trouble keeping the characters straight, but that's partly due to the fact that I typically read only two or three chapters per day. (My German reading isn't the fastest.) ...more
Achim Barczok
Oct 31, 2014 rated it liked it
For many chapters, this book felt like I was drowning, but the saving shore was always in sight. But in the end the shore was never there. I guess that is the right ending for this book, but it left me somehow frustrated anyway.
Michael O'Donnell
Jul 07, 2018 rated it liked it
A good read but a hard read. The scenes were graphic and vividly described. The story lead you on but never really came together.
Stephen Durrant
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Sand" is a novel about an amnesiac, who finds himself in a terrifying situation, and, because of his amnesia, which no one else quite accepts as authentic, is rather powerless as to how to deal with that situation. But what turns this novel into a work of genius is that on one level it convinces the reader, at least this reader, that he has a form of amnesia himself! I can say no more about this particular issue without a spoiler alert, so I will leave it there and simply note that "Sand" is se ...more
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
6 stars. Mix Paul Bowles view of fate with Jusse Adler-Olsen's view of bureaucracy and stir in Samuel R. Delany's 'Dalgren' for understanding events. Polidorio (IQ 102) has ended up in the North African port city of Targat as a cop a few months ago and he still finds the culture so frustrating he has to consume the aspirin his wife brought him from France to quell the daily 4 pm headache. His boss, (30 IQ points higher) Canisades has adapted to the culture so well he thrives in it. He takes Poli ...more
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book is epic and I feel like rereading it only hours after I finished it.
Diligently written, it does feel like a mess for a while. The first chapters are impossible to follow, then it becomes impossible to put it down. Every seemingly unimportant detail is connected to the story and reveals information about a character or a happening. The author manages to surprise his readers over and over again until the very last page. It is a mind-blowing piece and I don't think anyone has imagined anyt
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It has occurred to me before that I almost invariably love mysterious stories about characters who have no idea what they are doing. Memory loss has been used before, such as in the movie Memento, to create a sense of mystery that is unshakable. We don't know who to believe any better than the person experiencing the loss, which in the case of this novel, makes every strange twist seem so bizarre.
Sand is also a fun read. The characters are humorous as they are terrible, and watching "Carl" caree
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2020
I just didn't have the patience for this. However artful the writing may be, while this book started out fairly intriguing, by the time we finally got some answers as to what was going on I had long stopped caring. Too longwinded, and too much time spent on irritating dialogue between characters talking in circles. ...more
Aug 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very confusing.... Still looking for answers
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully grisly, demanding, humourous thriller. Excellent plot where all things come together neatly (with a few references to earlier chapters). I will enjoy re-reading this.
Charles Lewis
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This is the first novel I've read in which an afterward, not written by the author, explains what just went on in the book. Such as, who was that man with amnesia. The writer of the afterward thought it was obvious. Really? In fact in the afterward he criticizes those book critics who didn't get it. I was glad others didn't get it. I felt less foolish. Some have said that the book starts confusing and then clicks together. I never got to that click. Despite my frustrations I couldn't put the boo ...more
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NYRB Classics: Sand, by Wolfgang Herrndorf 1 8 Dec 06, 2018 12:24PM  

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Wolfgang Herrndorf studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts, Nuremberg. After graduating, he moved to Berlin, where he worked as a magazine illustrator and posted frequently on the Internet forum Wir höflichen Paparazzi (We Polite Paparazzi). In 2001, Herrndorf joined the art and writing collective Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur, eventually contributing to their blog, Riesenmaschine (Giant Machi ...more

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