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Robert Seethaler – A Whole Life

Posted in Book reviews, and Fiction

In A Whole Life, readers follow Andreas Egger and his life time in a remote valley somewhere in Austrian Alps. The main character hasn’t find much love in his life; being handed as a kid to the farmer’s family, who wasn’t interested in him anyhow else then as an unloved workforce, his emotional and intimate life have been affected. However, he grows stronger with every each of bad experience, and is unknowingly preparing for upcoming hardships of life.

At last does Egger finds a girl and they are happily married until a tragic event cross their fate and leave him alone, again. Now, I believe this is very reliable with events of many people nowadays: those being disappointed with their intimate lives, those having troubles in relationships – they often immerse themselves in a work to forget, dumb themselves, and so does Egger. Until it’s decided that he can join soldiers in a war and he travels to Russia. Here he ends up as a prisoner of war and stays few years in captivity. After war’s end, Egger comes back to Austria, however he finds very different place in society and compassion to what he has been used to. The revolution has changed his hometown and lifestyle of its inhabitants. Egger has to find his way of living again. And it is a lonely life, as it seems he’s not able of loving anymore and so in the upcoming years his life he becomes more and more lonely. Until his very last breath, Eggers lives with humility to what life has prepared for him.

A Whole Life takes place in the beginning of the 20th century, but history is by no means its central topic – on contrary; it subtly introduces more and less important historical events, such as beginning of World War II, spread of car ownership and start of recreational hiking. All of this is described from people’s perspective which makes it more personal and remarkable. Another key element of A Whole Life is nature; humans vs natural disasters, nature’s beauty (especially in terms of mountains).

This short novella is about simplicity of life where bad and lovely events come and pass, where suffering is a part of human experience. A Whole Life has almost Zen quality to it: it shows how one’s life doesn’t need to be filled with excitement, new experiences every day and travels all over the globe. On the contrary, it portrays how someone’s life could have looked like before and, admittedly, still looks like in many corners of our world. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean boring, unhappy and hard, even though in Egger’s case it oftentimes was so. The simple life can also mean happiness consciousness and gratefulness; simply a whole life.

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