All for Nothing

all for nothing.jpg
all for nothing.jpg

All for Nothing


A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice

A New Yorker Magazine Pick of Books That Deserved More Attention in 2018

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 postwar 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.

“What an amazing book this is…Kempowski recounts this grave story almost in a spirit of lightness, with a slightly ironic distance and a quiet, steady humor…The result is a book at once searing and utterly unsentimental.” —New Yorker

“His perspective on a grim slice of history steadily broadens out to become visionary.” —Economist (London)

“Until recently, the plight of the nearly 750,000 Germans who fled East Prussia in the last days of World War II remained a taboo subject in fiction.” —New York Times Book Review

“Beautiful…Reaches its last devastating line with poetic sensibility and the grace of a classical tragedy.” —Guardian (London)

“Far more than a great German novel; Kempowski’s late masterwork is a universal tract which suggests that history can only present the facts; it is crafted stories such as this which enable us to grasp a sense of the vicious reality of war.” —Irish Times (Dublin)

“Gothic and haunting, the novel asks what things will be like ‘if things turn out bad,’ knowing the answer will come too soon.” —Publishers Weekly

“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?” —Library Journal

“Memorable and monumental: a book to read alongside rival and compatriot Günter Grass’ Tin Drum as a portrait of decline and fall.” —Kirkus Reviews

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