Birgit Vanderbeke

The Mussel Feast

The modern German classic that has shaped an entire generation.


A mother and her two teenage children sit at the dinner table. In the middle stands a large pot of cooked mussels. Why has the father not returned home? As the evening wears on, we glimpse the issues that are tearing this family apart.


‘I wrote this book in August 1989, just before the Fall of the Berlin Wall. I wanted to understand how revolutions start. It seemed logical to use the figure of a tyrannical father and turn the story into a German family saga.’ Birgit Vanderbeke


Why Peirene chose to publish this book: ‘I love this monologue. It's the first Peirene book which made me laugh out loud with tears in my eyes. The author lays bare the contradictory logic of an inflexible mind. This is a poignant yet hilarious narrative with a brilliant ending.’ Meike Ziervogel


‘We are playing catch-up here with something of a contemporary European classic.’ David Mills, Sunday Times


‘The novella brilliantly renders both the power of the revolutionary moment and the uncertainty of the future it unleashes.’ Jane Yager, Times Literary Supplement


‘This is one of those books that doesn't tell us what to think, but sets us off thinking . .. Who writes this kind of nuanced work in Britain?’ Nicholas Lezard, Guardian


‘Sinister, funny and heartening, this taut novella reflects, within the microcosm of the family, the dissolution of the East German state, with an insight, economy and controlled fury that have made it a modern German classic.’ Chris Schuler, Independent


‘There is a political edge to Vanderbeke's provocative examination of patriarchal violence, and part of the power of this darkly comic tale is how well it succeeds as an allegory for political tyranny.’ Lucy Popescu, Independent on Sunday


‘Astute, darkly funny, provocative, often uncomfortable in its devastating depiction of patriarchal oppression but ultimately uplifting.’ Pam Norfolk, Lancashire Evening Post


‘An extraordinary book, the story unspooled with masterful restraint, and written with simplicity and precision.’ Francesca Segal, Standpoint


SHORTLISTED FOR THE INDEPENDENT FOREIGN FICTION PRIZE 2014
WINNER OF THE SCHLEGEL-TIECK PRIZE FOR GERMAN TRANSLATION 2014
FOYLES BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2013
98 printed pages
Original publication
2013
Publisher
Peirene Press

Impressions

    T Carstensshared an impressionlast month
    👍Worth reading
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    Marina Zalashared an impression2 years ago
    👍Worth reading
    🔮Hidden Depths
    🎯Worthwhile
    🚀Unputdownable

Quotes

    Oksana Dreamerhas quotedlast month
    he was writing his lecture and also drawing several colour transparencies
    Oksana Dreamerhas quotedlast month
    It was our custom to have jacket potatoes with quark and linseed oil, sometimes pea soup, too, and because my father had eaten this food as a child, he’d often request it for nostalgic reasons.
    Oksana Dreamerhas quotedlast month
    to scrape, scrub, brush and rinse several ti

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