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The End of Days

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  2,292 ratings  ·  383 reviews
Winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Hans Fallada Prize, The End of Days, by the acclaimed German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, consists essentially of five “books,” each leading to a different death of the same unnamed female protagonist. How could it all have gone differently?—the narrator asks in the intermezzos. The first chapter begins with the death of a ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 11th 2014 by New Directions (first published 2012)
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Amalia Gavea
‘’The Lord gave and the Lord took away, her grandmother said to her at the edge of the grave. But that wasn't right, because the Lord had taken away much more than had been there to start with, and everything her child might have become was now lying there at the bottom of the pit, waiting to be covered up.’’

This book is full of horrors. The horror of losing your newborn child. The horror of being a stranger, unwanted and frowned upon. The horror of oppression, persecution, war, death. The
Adam Dalva
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Incredibly brilliant writing on, essentially, the interconnections between a series of alternate universes. I bought the book without knowing anything about it (except my affection for Erpenbeck), and I think I might have benefited from not knowing the concept (which has been spoiled all over Goodreads, but I won't address it here). This is structurally fascinating - 5 linked short novels that congeal into a whole that sums up a life better than a realist novel could. There are stylistic ...more
Friederike Knabe
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german-lit
Already the title of Jenny Erpenbeck's new novel, ALLER TAGE ABEND (THE END OF ALL DAYS), gives me pause. It is an old fashioned phrase that goes back at least to Martin Luther. The story begins at the grave site of a baby girl, and, while the grandmother accepts this death without questioning the why?, the thoughts of the mother wander into all the possible future lives that the girl might have had... "One death is not the end of all days", first spoken by the grandmother, becomes the ...more
Aug 24, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2
I have read 50% of this book and I am no further on than when I had 1% read as this book is making absolutely no sense to me. When is the right time to give up on a book? I hate giving up on a novel but I am getting zero satisfaction from this story and frustration is starting to set in. So I think now is the time to part company with this one.
One of the difficulties for me is that neither the main character or her parents, sister, husband, grandparents and great-grandparents are given names
A child dies. But this is not the end, no, the beginning. What if she hadn't died? What if her life went on and she died in the despair of unrequited love, or in a senseless pogrom of 'Trotskyite' elements, or celebrated, at the height of literary fame, or in obscurity, forgotten and alone in an old people's home? What does it take to survive the twentieth century? To be tossed on the waves of two wars, the Spanish flu, economic collapse, totalitarian regimes, the fall of communism, and yet keep ...more
Roger Brunyate
Death After Death

I read the first long section of this intricate novel in German as Aller Tage Abend over a year ago. It was about the time that Kate Atkinson's Life After Life was going to press, so there can be no accusation of plagiarism between the two authors, but the concepts are nonetheless very similar. Atkinson tells a forty-year story in which a setback in one chapter—an infant's death, say—is immediately followed by another in which that outcome is erased and replaced by an
Lark Benobi
Aug 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Breathtaking, vivid writing but it almost didn't feel like the writing belonged in a novel. It felt like it should have been music, instead. As I read I got the same feeling I get when I listen to Barber's Adagio for Strings. As with the Barber piece there are beautiful incantatory phrases that build to piercingly beautiful and very sad resolutions. But the resolutions are lyrical and thematic, rather than providing narrative closure. The language does not build to a resolution as a novel ...more
Jan 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
The first two sections of this novel took my breath away. I slowed my pace down to a close-reading level, absorbing the resonances between the first two possible lives of this girl-child and entertaining the possibilities in subtle shifts that might change a life. I immediately found it more profound than Kate Atkinson's Life After Life which starts at a galloping pace (and a very different style). An infant who suffers a crib-death finds herself with suicidal ideations in another life: "Does he ...more
Viv JM
There were moments of great beauty and poignancy in this book, but for some reason it just left me a bit cold - I never really felt a connection. The lack of character names didn't really work for me, I found it too baffling. Probably a case of it's not the book, it's me but still, I feel slightly relieved to have finished!!
May 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Ruminating (over) life
Reading the German author Jenny Erpenbeck always is quite a challenge. In this novel too, you are constantly puzzling: who is talking here, what is it about, how does this chapter relate to the others, etc…? Endless questions that may not even be relevant.

What keeps recurring is the theme of the leanness of life: a child’s life that is broken in the bud by cot death, a girl who suddenly commits suicide together with a boy, an activist woman who is constantly on her guard
M. Sarki
Jun 10, 2014 rated it liked it

There is an old man back in my home town in Michigan, my place of birth, who sits alone in a chair in a rest home, no longer aware of who he is or what he is doing there, or anywhere. He no longer remembers what certain words mean nor what gadgets are meant to do, or even why tasks have to be performed. The only meaning left in his life are the brief moments of memory that come to him in a flash, but then mostly escape him. It seems his days are spent
This is a profoundly moving book, a poetic reflection on the fragility of life and the endurance of the human spirit which follows the life of a woman through the traumas and upheavals of twentieth century Europe, from Austria to East Berlin via Moscow. In each section of the book, alternative scenarios are explored in which small and apparently random events lead to her early death, and the story often moves focus between global events and deeply personal experiences.
Sotiris Karaiskos
A very interesting and original book, which has the very essential quality of this originality not to be an end in itself but to exist to give a clear message. The author narrates the life of a woman from infancy to deep old age, a life that covers almost the entire 20th century. We follow this life in five separate stages, in the five chapters of the book, with each stage dealing or ending with her death and giving the baton to the next one who deals with what would happen if this death did not ...more
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jenny Erpenbeck is a Master in the sense in which Colm Toibin refers to Henry James.
This is literature at its best. There is the story with its multi-faceted narratives, and there are its words, all repeatedly broken down to their most basic elements and then rebuilt to provide a different narrative for the same story. Reading the story of the life of one woman, we are at all times on shaky ground. The most basic facts involving life, death, even names, are elusive and changing. I had the sense
A few years ago, I discovered – through the recommendation of a friend – a stunning and poetic little masterpiece titled Visitation, containing a haunting narrative that carefully wove its way in and out of history and time. The author was Jenny Erpenbeck and, since then, I’ve eagerly awaited her newest work. And finally, it’s here.

The theme she so beautifully explored – the fluidity of history and time – is front and center of this book as well and, if possible, even more fully realized. Those
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: .
'A day on which a life comes to an end is still far from being the end of days.'

The End of Days is everything Life After Life should have been.

Erepenbeck’s undertaking is an ambitious one: an overview of the turbulent 20th century, our guide (our Virgil to our Dante) an anonymous woman who dies invariably violent and harrowing deaths. Until the final pages when Erpenbeck gifts her one nondescript name, she is anonymous: is this wherein the power lies? Her anonymity lends the tale an immense
I'm fascinated with "what if" novels, as in what if some happening in your life was tweaked slightly and your life went in a different direction? For me, one such moment was deciding to attend a party I was 50/50 on and ending up meeting my future wife there. What if I had stayed home and never met her? Wow.

The End of Days is based on this premise. It is similar in style to Kate Atkinson's excellent book Life After Life, although I would rank Kate's book higher. The End of Days was written by
“The End Of Days” was published nearly the same time as Kate Atkinson’s “Life After Life” which is interesting that two authors had a similar idea at the same time. I favor “The End Of Days” in comparison of the two. Erpenbeck went deeper into the idea of: what if events were different, how would that affect a life? How would one person change based upon events. What part of our character is a result of events and what is inherent?

In this novel, Erpenbeck wrote five “books” or lives. It’s five
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
I found this tremendously powerful and moving. A best of the year book for me, & I immediately want to read everything Erpenbeck has written.
Suanne Laqueur
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. That was really something else...
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: heart-on-sleeve
A day on which a life comes to an end is still far from being the end of days.

This is the book on death and mourning that I have been waiting for ever since I was a troubled kid - a troubled teenager - a troubled young adult, and frequently toyed with macabre conditional statements, such as «if I were to die at this very moment, then...»

Then what? Indeed, what would happen afterwards?

Erpenbeck, as skillful as Clotho, spins the thread of life of a young girl, but unlike Atropos, she cuts it at
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding! I almost want to re-read it just to take in more of the beauty and depth of the words. The writing is simple, soulful, gorgeous and masterful. It seems like I "felt" vs. "read" this book. I want to stand up and cheer for such an accomplishment.

It's something how a book comes to you. This one was highly recommended by Jill, a friend on Goodreads. And even so, you never really know what to expect and if the book will have the same impact as we all have different tastes. Well, this is
Jenny Erpenbeck has just joined the list of my favorite writers. First "Visitation" ("Heimsuchung") and now this book. And once again: not a word too much, not a thought wasted. Recommended does not even begin to cover it, but read it on a sunny day, when you are able to stomach 90 years of in big parts Jewish history perfectly condensed into one book of not even 300 pages.
(And yes, I am writing this in English because I want everyone to read it, not only the German-speaking folks.)

I won't give 5 stars to any old book. But just for a change this one thoroughly deserves all the accolades. It's just so beautifully done.
This is an absorbing novel that had me completely under its spell. The theme being the various alternative lives - or indeed deaths - of one woman. The way that circumstances intervene to decide our fate. If on a certain day a young lady didn't take her normal route through the streets of old Vienna. If she didn't ignore a certain young man. If she didn't
Katherine Kendig
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading The End of Days felt kind of like taking a good class: exciting at the beginning as the material is introduced, then increasingly difficult and frustrating, but - as the semester draws to a close - increasingly satisfying, in hindsight.

The characters in this book, about seven of which are meaningful POV characters, don't have names. Usually that kind of trickiness can only succeed for the duration of a short story, if that... But somehow, Erpenbeck makes it work for most of the work. in
Gumble's Yard
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
“Life After Life” style book – examining the various lives of one women – each section finishes with her death, with then an intermezzo imagining how she might have lived rather than died and filling in some more detail. The first section assumes that she dies as a baby in Galacia (on the fringes of the Austro Hungarian Empire in the 1900s) and follows the fortunes of her Jewish mother and Catholic railway official father as they split after her death; the last is about her “final” death, ...more
Marc Nash
Jun 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is very similar in conceit to Kate Atkinson's "Life After Life", where the book starts with a baby's death and then posits alternative histories if she lived. Atkinson's book studies the First and Second World Wars for a largely British perspective (with one section in pre-war Germany), whereas Erpenbeck's is set across MittelEuropa from the First World War to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Of the two I prefer Erpenbeck's, because Atkinson's was a bit too recognisable and not enough ...more
B. Rule
Dec 27, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a really good book, but I don't think it was great. Each chapter describes the effect of the death of a woman, identified only as Comrade Hoffman, and the circumstances of her life and loved ones as affected by the particular death. The book touches on some really interesting historical settings, as she's born at the tail end of the 19th century and (in some chapters) lives through WWI, the rise of Stalin in the Soviet Union, and the dissolution of that political body. There are some ...more
a new directions book , multiple awards winner. clever way to tell europe saga of 20th century, five characters as same person, but at different time periods, different situations. none being 1%er's or otherwise very privileged. thus lots of dying, running, hiding, trying failing war inhumanity and borders both open and closed.
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read all of Erpenbeck's books to be translated into English so far, and loved the idea behind The End of Days. The novel gives five wildly different scenarios in the life of one woman; in the first 'Book', for instance, she suffers a cot death, and the grief of her parents ensues; in others, she becomes a prostitute, or goes somewhat off the rails.

Erpenbeck has done a marvellous job of setting The End of Days against the backdrop of the twentieth century, and the historic events which
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Jenny Erpenbeck (born 12 March 1967 in East Berlin) is a German director and writer.

Jenny Erpenbeck is the daughter of the physicist, philosopher and writer John Erpenbeck and the Arabic translator Doris Kilias. Her grandparents are the authors Fritz Erpenbeck and Hedda Zinner. In Berlin she attended an Advanced High School, where she graduated in 1985. She then completed a two-year apprenticeship
“Her body is a city. Her heart is a large shady square, her fingers pedestrians, her hair the light of streetlamps, her knees two rows of buildings. She tries to give people footpaths. She tries to open up her cheeks and her towers. She didn’t know streets hurt so much, not that there were so many streets in her to begin with. She wants to take her body on a stroll, out of her body, but she doesn’t know where the key is.” 2 likes
“The Lord gave, and the Lord took away, her grandmother said to her at the edge of the grave. But that wasn't right, because the Lord had taken away much more than had been there to start with, and everything her child might have become was now lying there at the bottom of the pit, waiting to be covered up.” 1 likes
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