‘A Whole Life’ by Robert Seethaler – A Life in the Austrian Alps


‘A Whole Life’ by Robert Seethaler  (2014)  – 151 pages               Translated from the German by Charlotte Collins

As its title says, this novella gives the reader a whole life, the life of Andreas Egger who lives almost his entire life in the Austrian Alps. This is the story of a man contending with the majestic beauty and the dark calamity of both Mother Nature and Human Nature.

Andreas is born to a woman who “had led an irresponsible life, for which God had recently punished her with consumption and summoned her to his bosom”. As still a young boy of four, Andreas is taken in by his uncle Kranzstocker who already has a family of his own and looks upon this little boy as an extra unwanted burden.

Later Andreas somehow overcomes his bad childhood and does all the things people do, gets a decent job working in the mountains, marries, serves a stint in the German army during World War II, comes back to the mountains. During his lifetime he watches his neighborhood change from a farming area to a tourist destination with cable-cars that take the visitors up to the top of the mountains. His job is to clear the pathways for these cable-cars in the treacherous mountains.

Its austere beauty gives ‘A Whole Life’ its power by concentrating on only those things that finally matter. Like the mountains, it is elemental and fatalistic. Perhaps it is a little too simple to be entirely realistic. Nothing is complex or complicated. Andreas Egger never has to contend with his own Bad Nature. He is a little too good to be true.

However a novella can’t be everything at once, and ‘A Whole Life’ does give us the full life of a solid man living in the Austrian Alps.

It would not make sense for me to blabber on and on about such an austere and graceful novella.


Grade:    A-



4 responses to this post.

  1. I loved this book too…

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Such a beautiful book. And sensitively translated by Collins I thought.

    Liked by 1 person


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