When someone leaves who is close to you your whole life changes, whether you want it to or not. Everything is changed. Alice is the heroine of these five stories, all about her – and about how life is and love is when people are no longer there. Things are left behind; books, letters, pictures; and now and then you think you see them in someone else's face.
In a firm and touching voice, Judith Hermann tells how life's paths cross, change direction and are led apart, never to be reunited. The result is a book of short stories with astounding sobriety, great literary beauty and incredible power.
‘Alice is a quiet book, in which the words, sentences and meanings seem to withdraw into themselves.’ Felicitas von Lovenberg, FAZ, 2.5.2009
Pro and contra in the FAS, 3.5.2009: ’This book is based on a philosophical observation, which Jean-Paul Sartre formulated in the 1940s: not even death gives life meaning. (...) This book, Judith Hermann’s best, has no subject. (..) It is a permeable book, containing more of how we live today than many a high-powered epos working hard to depict the same topic.’ Nils Minkmar, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 3.5.2009
‘The new book has a concept. In the first two, nothing could be further. That makes the new book so enclosed; it reads as if it were pressed into a corset.’ Volker Weidermann, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 3.5.2009
‘Judith Hermann has a talent for summoning up settings and atmospheres in two or three sentences, so well that one feels one could reach out and touch them. Her narrative rhythm has absolutely lyrical qualities, it is worked through by melody, rhythm, timbre, without ever seeming effortful or affected. Everything reads as light as air.’ Uwe Wittstock, Die Welt, 2.5.2009
‘To my mind, this is her best book. Something is experienced here.’ Ursula März, Bayern 2, Diwan, 2.5.2009
‘There is hardly any subject more at risk of producing sentimental kitsch than death. In Judith Hermann there are no laments, and no crying. Instead, her stories are composed of strict language and underlain with an austere melody. There is not one word too many. She succeeds in making us understand what strange coincidence of suddenness and time standing still death means, dropping out of everything else that exists.
(...) Hermann’s characters have grown up, and through them Judith Hermann shows that she didn’t just have a good feel for a particular way of life some time in the 90s, but that she is a damned good writer.’ Wiebke Porombka, taz, 2.5.2009
‘The five stories consistently tell of farewells and loss – and Judith Hermann’s sparse, subtle narrative style, which set her two previous books apart, proves particularly coherent here. (...) A sad and clever book.« Jobst-Ulrich Brand, focus online, 1.5.2009
‘Alice is the one within whom echoes what is and what is irrevocable: the things. The deaths. The existence of others. The one in the midst of these structures, who represents the question: Does it all have a meaning? A great meaning? Or none at all? Who perhaps embodies this question herself – and the strict absence of certain answers. Perhaps that is what makes this book, heavy with death, strangely light. It grows weightier the further one moves away from it, filling it with oneself. These stories have a good standing; a good assuredness of themselves.’ Bernadette Conrad, NZZ am Sonntag, 3.5.2009
‘...Judith Hermann shows herself at the pinnacle of her ability.’ tip Stadtmagazin, 10/2009
‘What marks out Hermann’s prose is her art of stringing together short, simple sentences in an unexcited tone – and nevertheless making the failure to cope, the powerlessness in the face of death tangible. Alice is run through with great sadness and yet still comforting.’ Karolin Jacquemain, Hamburger Abendblatt, 4.5.2009
‘All those who love Judith Hermann’s famous sound will get a new fix.’ Ina Hartwig, Frankfurter Rundschau, 4.5.2009
‘Judith Hermann’s latest short stories are powerful pieces, with the author regaining her old strength.’ Andreas Tobler, Berner Zeitung, 30.4.2009
‘Judith Hermann’s great talent is in creating moods that touch the soul deeply. In mostly short, very precise sentences, this author describes the nature of surfaces, under which much lies hidden that cannot be credibly captured in words.’ Martin Hatzius, Neues Deutschland, 4.5.2009
‘One is drawn in by Judith Hermann’s very reserved tone. (...) Perhaps Alice is Judith Hermann’s best book so far, as effortless as if she had spent 40 years working on it. In fact it was only six years.’ Lothar Schröder, Rheinische Post, 2.5.2009
‘Hermann’s stylistically assured stories are dominated by an austere sound, which she creates with many short sentences, with ellipsis and frequent omission of verbs. Her style and syntax are reminiscent at times of the prose of Marlene Streeruwitz.’ Gerrit Bartels, Tagesspiegel, 4.5.2009
‘Now Kehlmann’s quiet sister returns from her long literary silence and disputes the noisily celebrated master’s right to the title. Not simply just like that and in general, but in exactly that literary form that Kehlmann presented and allegedly created: short stories with criss-crossing content, through which the protagonists of the other, apparently closed texts meander, a novel in pieces. But what appears formal and artful in Kehlmann’s work is a convincing balancing act with great strength of mind in Judith Hermann: she tells stories of common experiences in an uncommon way. (...)
It is a soft, angry book, full of silent reflection and lamenting rebellion; against the irrevocability, against the normality that covers death with equanimity. Against one’s own lethargy and inability, against an everyday life that calmly scatters earth over the everyday experience of death.’ Gudrun Norbisrath, Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 4.5.2009
‘The fact that someone is missing, at some point, after a while, suddenly or years or decades later, and that this gap cannot be overcome, is not considered in sprawling meditation, but in very disciplined prose, linking the temporal levels unobtrusively and artfully, and in sentences partly starved down to the skin and bones, partly slim and limber. (...) Alice, this discreet portrait of a woman in five stories about men, teaches us the old joy of reading.’ Julia Schröder, Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 7.5.2009