All for nothing

Walter Kempowski

Book - 2018

"The last novel by one of Germany's most important postwar writers, All for Nothing was published in Germany in 2006, just before Walter Kempowski's death. It describes with matter-of-fact clarity and acuity, and a roving point of view, the atmosphere in East Prussia during the winter of 1944-1945 as the German forces are in retreat and the Red Army approaches. The von Globig family's manor house, the Georgenhof, is falling into a state of disrepair. Auntie runs the estate as... best she can since Eberhard von Globig, a special officer in the German army, went to war, leaving behind his beautiful but vague wife, Katharina, and her bookish twelve-yearold son, Peter. As the road beside the house fills with Germans fleeing the occupied territories, the Georgenhof receives strange visitors--a Nazi violinist, a dissident painter, a Baltic baron, even a Jewish refugee--but life continues in the main as banal, wondrous, and complicit as ever for the main characters, until their caution, their hedged bets and provisions, their wondering, and their denial are answered by the wholly expected events they haven't allowed themselves to imagine"--

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Series
New York Review Books classics.
Subjects
Genres
Domestic fiction
War stories
Published
New York : New York Review Books [2018]
Language
English
German
Physical Description
xiv, 343 pages ; 21 cm
ISBN
9781681372051
1681372053
Main Author
Walter Kempowski (author)
Other Authors
Anthea Bell (translator), Jenny Erpenbeck, 1967- (author of introduction)
Review by Library Journal Reviews

Published in 2006, this final work by major postwar German author Kempowski (Swansong 1945) takes place in East Prussia during the winter of 1944–45, as refugees flee west before the relentlessly advancing Soviet Army. Interestingly, it's not the refugees but the once distinguished, now nearly destitute von Globigs who form the novel's core. With Eberhard von Globig at a reasonably cushy job behind the lines, the tumbling-down manor house is occupied by his beautiful but vacuous wife, Katharina; their serious young son Peter, coming of age at exactly the wrong time; and Auntie, who single-mindedly runs the estate. People drop in, from a Nazi violinist and Peter's fey tutor to a stuffy Baltic baron foisted on the family and a Jewish refugee Katharina helps less from conviction than passivity. But what astonishes throughout is the clearly delivered sense of how the von Globigs cling to the past and refuse to face what's coming. Who will survive and, as the title suggests, what's the point? VERDICT Penetrating work for readers of literary and upmarket historical fiction. Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Kempowski's atmospheric novel opens on the decaying Georgenhof estate, which lies on the East Prussian border, in 1945, as the Red Army approaches. The vestiges of a family whose paterfamilias and uniting figure is serving in Italy bide their time and try to go about life in the mansion, where Hitler's likeness still adorns paintings, stamps, and banknotes, not fully aware of the danger of the approaching Red Army. At the story's center is young Peter, sincere and bookish, who studies his microscope in a bedroom adjacent to that of his dead sister, Elfie, and is taught by the foppish schoolmaster Dr. Wagner. Peter's father, Eberhard von Globig, has gone to the Italian Front; Peter's mother, the "languorous beauty" Katharina, perhaps already a widow, waits in vain for news of Eberhard's fate. "Auntie, a sinewy old spinster," keeps a lookout for the influx of refugees that—originally confined to the surrounding buildings—soon mobs the courtyard. A change is coming to their way of life, heralded by a series of guests—a disabled "political economist," an unreconstructed Nazi violinist, a painter, a debauched Baltic baron, and, fatefully, a Jewish fugitive. Gothic and haunting, the novel asks what things will be like "if things turn out bad," knowing the answer will come too soon. (Feb.) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"The last novel by one of Germany's most important postwar writers, All for Nothing was published in Germany in 2006, just before Walter Kempowski's death. It describes with matter-of-fact clarity and acuity, and a roving point of view, the atmosphere inEast Prussia during the winter of 1944-1945 as the German forces are in retreat and the Red Army approaches. The von Globig family's manor house, the Georgenhof, is falling into a state of disrepair. Auntie runs the estate as best she can since Eberhard von Globig, a special officer in the German army, went to war, leaving behind his beautiful but vague wife, Katharina, and her bookish twelve-yearold son, Peter. As the road beside the house fills with Germans fleeing the occupied territories, the Georgenhof receives strange visitors--a Nazi violinist, a dissident painter, a Baltic baron, even a Jewish refugee--but life continues in the main as banal, wondrous, and complicit as ever for the main characters, until their caution, their hedged bets and provisions, their wondering, and their denial are answered by the wholly expected events they haven't allowed themselves to imagine"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A wealthy family tries--and fails--to seal themselves off from the chaos of post-World War II life surrounding them in this stunning novel by one of Germany's most important post-war writers.In East Prussia, January 1945, the German forces are in retreat and the Red Army is approaching. The von Globig family's manor house, the Georgenhof, is falling into disrepair. Auntie runs the estate as best she can since Eberhard von Globig, a special officer in the German army, went to war, leaving behind his beautiful but vague wife, Katharina, and her bookish twelve-year-old son, Peter. As the road fills with Germans fleeing the occupied territories, the Georgenhof begins to receive strange visitors--a Nazi violinist, a dissident painter, a Baltic baron, even a Jewish refugee. Yet in the main, life continues as banal, wondrous, and complicit as ever for the family, until their caution, their hedged bets, and their denial are answered by the wholly expected events they haven't allowed themselves to imagine.All for Nothing, published in 2006, was the last novel by Walter Kempowski, one of postwar Germany's most acclaimed and popular writers.