A beautiful book in translation is something I don’t read enough of. So this month I have been indulging myself. The Field by Robert Seethaler translated from the German by Charlotte Collins has been, quite simply perfect.
This is the story of a field, a field now a graveyard. The final resting place for the villagers of this provincial town. And with death, which is the ultimate leveller, comes a series of stories told by the grave’s inhabitants. It is an idea that is quite breathtaking, both in it’s simplicity and it’s flawless execution.
Each story is unique, both in content and style. These are are told by people young and old, rich and poor. Those who lived lives that were full and content, that died fulfilled. Those whose lives were short, bitter and brief. And those who fall in between.
Some stories focus on just one event, however trivial or unimportant it may seem. Some stories are longer, comprehensive and encompass the full course and content of life, loss and love. Each on their own is a gem, a window into a community. Taken together, threaded into a single strand they form a picture of a town. A community shaped by those who have worked, lived, loved and died there.
This collection of tales, woven together, is a lesson in how life is layered over time, over generations and with small interconnecting stories that both strengthen and fracture the community they encounter.
A web of styles, of emotions and characters, this is a book that will keep you reading to the end. As always Camilla Elworthy has sent me a smasher.
The Field by Robert Seethaler is published by Picador and is out today