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A Whole Life

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  10,861 ratings  ·  1,473 reviews
Andreas Egger knows every path and peak of his mountain valley, the source of his sustenance, his livelihood--his home.

Set in the mid-twentieth century and told with beauty and tenderness, Robert Seethaler's A Whole Life is a story of man's relationship with an ancient landscape, of the value of solitude, of the arrival of the modern world, and above all, of the moments, g
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published July 2014)
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Thomas OMG, I just finished the book last night and this morning posted a few comments here on Goodreads about how similar I thought it was to Train Dreams..…moreOMG, I just finished the book last night and this morning posted a few comments here on Goodreads about how similar I thought it was to Train Dreams...and then I saw your question. Yes. I think they are very similar in many ways.(less)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  10,861 ratings  ·  1,473 reviews

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Oct 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone knowing there is more to life than happiness
Shelves: reviewed, 2016, austria
A touch of Alpenglow

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


The Austrian author Robert Seethaler gingerly depicts the austere life of a man, Andreas Egger, living and working in a remote alpine village where he has arrived in his early childhood as an orphan. He glances through Egger’s working life, his marriage and his encounters with social change
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, arc, netgalley

Set in an Austrian mountain valley, Andreas Egger lives a simple existence. He is thoughtful, although his father was unkind to him, and he is kind and gentle.

In his younger years, he worked farms, and then as modern conveniences began to approach even this small hidden valley, he worked in construction of cable cars to lure tourists. He loves and is loved in return. After his youth is gone, and after he’s once been rejected for service, he’s sent off to war. Endures hardships.

Returning to the
Robert Seethaler can tell and write fantastically and his language is clear and beautiful. But why doesn´t he look deep into his figure, why does he remain so strange and far away from his Protagonist Egger? I´ve waited for a depth throughout his whole novel, but unfortunately it didn´t happened. This book was highly praised and I had been looking forward to it, but sadly I expected too much. Because of this, I stopped reading the book after page seventy and started reading all over again to giv ...more
Sidharth Vardhan
"Scars are like years, he said: one follows another and it’s all of them together that make a person who they are."

"My thigh hurts a bit, but that’s all. Now the two of us can limp down to the valley side by side.’
‘No,’ said Egger, and stood up. ‘Every one of us limps alone!'

And that is what this book is. The story of a man limping through his life. His is a life that most of us lead. With a number of uneventful years between two eventful memories. The eventful itself being either something
I read this story in a morning, mostly before breakfast - it was filling enough even if not quite breakfast shaped.

It is the story of a life almost from beginning up to the end, a life almost completely lived inside one mountain valley, almost without intimacy with any other person.

The central character, Andreas Egger, spends most of his time in one place, doing a very limited range of manual work, his life is extremely basic on a material level - most of it he spends living in various hovels wi
The title of Robert Seethaler’s novel is very eloquent - there is a whole life between the covers of this powerful little book. The life of the title is that of Andreas Egger, a quiet man whose name evokes ancient trees and remote valleys lying in the lee of mountains. The power in the story comes from Egger being at a complete remove from the modern world in spite of his being directly implicated in allowing the modern world, via cable cars, access the remote and ageless places he embodies not ...more

Lovely, dark and deep.

A quiet, respectful tribute to a gentle life of stoic self-sufficiency. Sort of Austrian Stoner, I imagine, set not in academia but in a remote (fictional) mountain valley where Andreas Egger works first as a general farm hand, then on the construction of wondrous, novel beasts known as cable cars that bring the twin benefits of modernity: tourism and electricity.
Call-up papers to fight in WW2 come as a surprise as he had been declared unfit for service back at the beginni
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love how books take me to new places. A Whole Life is set in an alpine village in Austria. I found it a treat to vicariously hike the mountains and take in the fresh air, sunshine, and wild flowers in the Austrian Alps. I also learned how arduous and treacherous life could be in the mountains, particularly in winter, during those years when there was no electricity, automobiles or cable cars, and modern amenities. The mountains can be "once so beautiful and so terrifying" at the same time. Abo ...more
There seemed something bland about the title of this novella to me, although it sounds grander in the original German: Ein ganzes Leben. And a whole life, like an opera, has a lot of filler in between the arias. That phrase popped up three times in this story, by my count, but was put on display when the protagonist is about to be hired for a job, and the general manager tells him this:

"You can buy a man's hours off him, you can steal his days from him, or you can rob him of his whole life, but
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: ·Karen·

Then he said something that, although he didn’t understand it at the time, Egger was to remember all his life: ‘"You can buy a man's hours off him, you can steal his days from him, or you can rob him of his whole life, but no one can take away from any man so much as a single moment…’

Whether the devastation wrought by Nature and Man has robbed Egger of his whole life is debatable, the devastating beauty and simplicity of the ending proves the truth of those single moments.
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe, fiction
It is always interesting to see what books inflame the European imagination. This novel by the Austrian writer Robert Seethaler took Germany by storm, and was released in translation last year in the United States and Canada. It really is the story of Andreas Egger’s whole life, though it runs less than one hundred and fifty pages.

The orphan Andreas Egger was given to a mean old relative, Hubert Kranzstocker, who crippled him in youth. Egger hardly ever spoke, but when he was eighteen he refuse
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: Man Booker International Prize Longlist 2016
[4.5] The opening pages transfixed me with a mountain rescue scene that could have as easily happened in the time of Ötzi as in the 1920s, involving a primally named goatherd, Horned Hannes. (Its only grounding in the second millennium CE is a single exclamation of "Jesus!", though I'm sure the people of 3000BC similarly swore by some deity of long-lost name.)

As the story then flashed back to begin at the beginning of our hero, the writing turned somewhat pedestrian and clunky. Andreas Egger's
Diane Barnes
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quiet, contemplative story of one unremarkable man's life. From youth to old age in the Austrian Alps during the first 3/4 of the 20th century, we get Egger's simple tale of a life well-lived. Not for anyone who needs a plot or lots of action, but for me, being inside this man's head was a peaceful place to be.
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
A tiny giant at just under 150 pgs., or 3 1/2 hrs. for the audio version, I read and listened to the book. (My lengthy review is almost as long as the book.) Translated from its original German in October 2015, A Whole Life was the smallest of the finalists for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, nominations for both its author and the translator, Charlotte Collins, as Roger points out in his review.
"Like John Williams' Stoner or Denis Johnson's Train Dreams, A Whole Life is a tender bo
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I got ‘A Whole Life’ by Robert Seethaler as a Christmas present from one of my favourite friends. I read it as soon as I got it, in one day, which rarely happens for me. It is a German book, it is around 150 pages, it has big font with wide spacing and it is a hardback – all things that I love. So, no wonder, I finished reading it in a day. I have been wanting to write about it for a while, but life distractions got in the way. Last week I saw it in the MAN Booker International Prize Longlist an ...more
Peter Boyle
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this poignant and wise little novel today in a single sitting. It's the kind of book that makes you want to sell all your worldly possessions and move from the noisy bustling city to a quiet cabin in the woods.

It tells the story of Andreas Egger, an unremarkable man who ekes out a simple existence in an Austrian mountain valley. He is a thoughtful, gentle soul and though he encounters great hardship and misfortune, he never fails to appreciate and be thankful for the smaller things.

Souvik Barik
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in an alpine village, A Whole Life tells the story of Andreas Egger, a man who is insignificant and ambiguous, and doesn't frantically search for peace. The novella does justice to it's title, as it attempts to capture Egger's entire life through a kaleidoscope of events, right from his infancy to his demise. As a child who is neglected and abused, little Egger is portrayed as the epitome of tolerance, and perhaps a resemblance with the colossal mountains is depicted by Seethaler in his prot ...more
Mar 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story might just as well be called "a little life" or "a simple life", but Seethaler chose "a whole life" (in German "Ein ganzes Leben"), and that is a statement in itself. Because the life story of Andreas Egger may not be spectacular, in his experience it was quite something and he was at peace with it. I think that Seethaler mainly wanted to emphasize that sense of satisfaction with his own destiny, despite all the setbacks and trials.

In doing so, he made a story very similar to Stoner,
(2.5) This novella set in the Austrian Alps is the story of Andreas Egger – at various times a farmer, a prisoner of war, and a tourist guide. Various things happen to him, most of them bad. I have trouble pinpointing why Stoner is a masterpiece whereas this is just kind of boring. There’s a great avalanche scene, though. ...more
A Whole Life is a very short novel that spans the entire life of one man, Andreas Eggers. Eggers is a lonely man who is not afraid of hard toil and a simple life, and his life is full of trials and tribulations.

I thought Seethaler's writing in this novel was beautiful in its simplicity, and the descriptions of the surroundings were very atmospheric and picturesque. I liked the emphasis on nature and both its beauty and its danger, making it both friend and enemy to Eggers. His ties to the land h
John Anthony
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The life is Andreas Egger's, an Austrian. It is a rock hard one. Much of it is spent on and around mountains or in the equally inhospitable forest. This taciturn man, gnarled and mauled by Nature, is her true child and there is a grudging respect between them. It is beautifully written, heart-breakingly so. The novel is a celebration, albeit a stoical one, of this man's life. The fittest survive with little need of luxury than that which nature allows.
Ieva Andriuskeviciene
In my humble opinion this books is a bit overrated. There have been comparisons with Stouner what is absolutely ridiculous. Stouner was a deep and complicated man and Egger is just boring and dull. Writing is very good, style as well, but the story and characters just plain. I kind of expected a story about loneliness but found nothing like that.
3* for good sinple prose. One of the books where form is way better than a story itself
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Just because this book can be read in one setting doesn't diminish its impact. It follows a man from his youth to death in the mountains of Austria. I didn't like it quite as well as other powerful stories of small lives (such as Stoner) but it was still thoughtful and beautiful at times.

I kept thinking back to Rock Crystal, another slim novel by an Austrian that had many of the same components - avalanches, wilderness, small towns, and Christmas celebrations.

Thanks to the publisher for providin
Friederike Knabe
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: european-lit
EIN GANZES LEBEN, A Whole Life , is one of those gems of a book that you might easily overlook in a book shop. A slim volume, a short novel with such a broad, even all encompassing title makes you question its ongoing success in German speaking countries. I did. How wrong I was in my superficial judgement! Robert Seethaler is a bestselling author in Austria and Germany; Ein Ganzes Leben is currently on the shortlist of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize , together with the book's translat ...more
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He couldn't remember where he had come from, and ultimately he didn't know where he would go. But he could look back without regret on the time in between, his life, with a full-throated laugh and utter amazement.

A Whole Life has been compared to Stoner. If I'm honest, I see the parallels, but I don't care for the comparison. Mostly because I didn't care for Stoner. However, I have a thorough appreciation for Seethaler's novel. Similarly, A Whole Life is a book about one man's quiet life. And it
A couple of days ago, as I was napping in the afternoon, I received a message from a dear friend. She sent across something and asked me to rate it, and I was harsh in my rating. I felt completely apologetic when she told me it was hers and felt even worse when I found that I was wrong in my judgement, as I hadn’t read it properly. Based on my first scrutiny of the words sent to me, I judged and judged wrong. Am not justifying my actions here and neither am I trying to redeem myself by saying go ...more
Dumped with an uncaring relative after his mother dies of consumption Eggers connects with the mountain more than with the family that barely tolerate him and when he is strong enough to resist the thrashings will leave and make his own way as a labourer eventually earning sufficient to buy a plot of land up the mountain where he can build a cabin.
He arrived in the village as a small boy in the summer of 1902, brought by horse-drawn carriage from a town far beyond the mountains. When he was lift
Roger Brunyate
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: place-portraits
He Could Be Content
Egger lived to be seventy-nine years old. He had held out longer than he himself had ever thought possible, and on the whole he could be content.
This deeply satisfying novella is the story of that contentment. It was a finalist for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, both for its author and its perfect translator, Charlotte Collins. It is much smaller in scale than any of the other nominees that I have read, not only in page-count but also in event. Han Kang's The Veg
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners

Original title: Ein ganzes Leben

Description: This 'slim masterpiece' (Daily Mail) went straight onto the bestseller lists in Germany last summer and has been there ever since. Jim Crace called it both 'heart-rending and heart-warming', and over 200,000 people have read and celebrated this book across Europe.

When Andreas Egger reaches the village on the night that he tries to save Hannes, the goatherd, he goes into the inn and meets Marie - the only lo
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It started well...the first 30 pages were interesting, than it became boring. i mean, what is with this obsession of writing about one's boring life like it is something so spectacular and even if it is not spectacular it is still spectacular because it represents life, the mediocrity of life which inevitably leads to death. come on guys, we have already known that. if you want death and god and questioning and turmoil just read Kazantzakis and you've got it all. you dont need small novels with ...more
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Robert Seethaler is an Austrian living in Berlin and is the author of four previous novels. A Whole Life is his first work to be translated into English and is already a German bestseller, selling over 100,000 copies. The book has been translated from its original German by Charlotte Collins.

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“You can buy a man's hours off him, you can steal his days from him, or you can rob him of his whole life, but no one can take away from any man so much as a single moment. That's the way it is.” 18 likes
“He couldn't remember where he had come from, and ultimately he didn't know where he would go. But he could look back without regret on the time in between, his life, with a full-throated laugh and utter amazement.” 11 likes
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