Peter Stamm translated from the German by Michael Hofmann

All Days Are Night


Publication Date: Nov 04, 2014

192 pp

Hardcover

List Price US $22.00
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
ISBN: 9781590516966

Ebook

List Price US $22.00
ISBN: 9781590516973


A novel about survival, self-reliance, and art, by Peter Stamm, finalist for the 2013 Man Booker International Prize

All Days Are Night is the story of Gillian, a successful and beautiful TV host, content with her marriage to Matthias, even if she feels restless at times. One night following an argument, the couple has a terrible car accident: Matthias, who is drunk, hits a deer on the wet road and dies in the crash. Gillian wakes up in the hospital completely disfigured. Only slowly, after many twists and turns, does she put her life back together, and reconnects with a love interest of the past who becomes a possible future—or so it seems. In Stamm’s unadorned and haunting style, this new novel forcefully tells the story of a woman who loses her life but must stay alive all the same. How she works everything out in the end is at once surprising and incredibly rewarding.



Excerpt from All Days Are Night

The doctor pulled a chair up to the bed and settled himself on the armrest. In his hand was a mirror, a toy mirror in a pink plastic frame. He asked her how she was doing.

Better, said Gillian. I’m getting there.

For the first time, she could remember.

Two days, he said, when she asked him how long she had been here. A month, a year—it wouldn’t have surprised her.

We had to give you strong painkillers.

It wasn’t a bad trip, said Gillian, and tried to laugh.

When she raised her hand, the doctor caught it with a sudden, gentle movement. Don’t, he said. You shouldn’t touch the place.

He launched into a description of her face, a dispassionate and technical listing, but Gillian couldn’t quite understand what he was saying. Then he described the operations—the procedures—that would be necessary.

In six months there will be little or no trace.

Trace of what? asked Gillian.

It’s relatively straightforward to put an ear back, said the doctor, but a nose has a great many delicate blood vessels. We are going to have to build you a new one.

It doesn’t look very pretty at the moment, he said, but I still think it’s a good idea for you to take a look at it.

Gillian closed her eyes, opened them, and put out her hand. The doctor handed her the mirror. She turned it this way and that, like a weapon she didn’t know how to use. She saw the window, the many bunches of flowers in the room, the door, and the doctor’s face. He smiled and asked her a question, but she missed it, she was still adjusting the mirror in space, as though looking for the right frame, and then she lowered her arm.

Is it very bad?


“Stamm’s careful, pared-down narrative, translated from German with great suppleness by Michael Hofmann, stops to notice all mirrors, all reflective surfaces or cameras, anything and anyone involved in visually representing the world. How can you see, Stamm’s novel asks, when everyone is looking at you? How can you make art under that kind of pressure?” —The New York Times Book Review

“[A] complex, psychological tale…riveting…intensely moving.” —The Wall Street Journal

“[An] engrossing story of recovery.” —The New Yorker

“Quietly surprising.” —New York Review of Books

“A postmodern riff on The Magic Mountain…a page-turner.” —The Atlantic

“The lucidity of Peter Stamm’s writing contrasts with the complexity of his characters…he has similarities with Gerbrand Bakker and Helle Helle, whose protagonists are as opaque their creators’ writing is clear. In laying bare his characters’ vulnerability and illogical behaviour, Stamm renders the lives of the ordinary as fascinating as the studies of any anthropologist.” —The Guardian

“This brief volume speaks eloquently about recovery and reinvention.” —Publishers Weekly

All Days Are Night air[s] the psychological implications of our beauty obsession and the insidious ways in which it can obscure selfhood.” —The New Republic

“A slim novel filled with big ideas about art and identity.” —Kirkus

“A tour de force [that] concern[s] itself with the mutability of identity. Stamm eschews middlebrow concerns of plot and resolution…his narrative is centered on the ruptures in his main characters’ lives and their consequences. …All Days Are Night recuperates one of the biggest themes any novelist can tackle with austere, formal brilliance.” —Financial Times

“Stamm…gives this well-worn set-up real energy…His prose, in a crystalline translation by Michael Hofmann, is as sharply illuminating as a surgical light. …A profound and mysterious book.” —The Economist

“Stamm transmutes turmoil into form.” —The Times Literary Supplement

“Brilliantly translated by Michael Hofmann…Stamm perceives that grief is insane and horrifying, a nightmare that does not need to be emphasised.” —Literary Review

“A brilliant, bruising tale of shattered lives.” —The Independent

“In a moment, our lives can change, our identities can vanish; if we are to live, we must re-form ourselves. In his elegantly-written and profound new novel, Peter Stamm investigates and tracks how one such self is reconfigured with scraps of an old life while moving-by-feel into a new one. With beautiful clarity, realism and compassion, All Days are Night takes us deep into a psyche-in-transition; the result is a revelatory novel that probes our most closely-held assumptions about how to live in this world.” —Michelle Huneven, author of Off Course

“Everything Peter Stamm turns his hand to is highly disturbing, acutely perceptive, and unfathomably gripping, and All Days Are Night is no exception. In sentences that are plain and surgical, in prose that has about it a disquieting stillness, he dissects our fractured lives. A masterpiece of disorientation and control, All Days Are Night may be his best novel yet.” —Rupert Thomson, award-winning author of The Insult and This Party’s Got to Stop

All Days Are Night is a gracious variation on a bitter theme, and one in which the author’s clarity of style comes to seem part of the cure: like a balsam, it soothes the characters’ sufferings, and helps them back into their lives.”—Spiegel Online

“Stamm keeps his tenderly misanthropic gaze riveted on his unhappy protagonists. He is like a gentler version of the young Houellebecq.” —Hans-Peter Kunisch, Süddeutsche Zeitung

“Stamm is somehow able to imbue his accounts of ordinary lives and universal frustrations with such tension that the books become unputdownable.” —Felicitas von Lovenberg, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“A book that makes life seem worth living again.” —Denis Scheck, ARD

“A delicate variation on a bitter theme[Stamm’s] linguistic clarity is instrumental in this story of salvation. With the power of a restorative it brings the characters back to life” —Der Spiegel

“Haunting and wonderfully consoling.” —Cosmopolitan Germany

“Astonishing… [Stamm], with his agile mind and his receptiveness to contemporary trends, has once more succeeded in depicting the zeitgeist with an astounding precision.” —Weltwoche

“Stamm produces writing of psychological acuity and great intensity.” —Saechsische Zeitung

All Days Are Night grapples with concepts like gender performativity, the construction of identity, and creation through destruction, yet the weightless prose makes it accessible reading. Stamm leaps between years and periods of the main characters’ lives effortlessly, blending flashbacks into the present to link place and meaning in that special, voyeuristic way fans of his other work will instantly recognize. I recommend this novel both to anyone who has spent a significant amount of time questioning the reality of selfhood and anyone who has scrupulously avoided doing so.” —Beth Weber, The Book Table (Oak Park, IL)

“Peter Stamm’s new book is one that I didn’t know I’d love. But once I started reading, the characters became a part of me in a totally inexplicable way. I found myself thinking about them like old friends keeping dark secrets.

In All Days Are Night, Stamm watches his characters create art, act in plays, die, love, and mortify each other and themselves all on the quest of something no one is quite sure of. It’s a story of uncertain passion, withheld devotion, and the grief that comes simply from living. Reading this book is like reading something that exists entirely in the margins. . . confessional but voyeuristic, and heartbreaking, but apathetic. Stamm negotiates the modern love story with a careful grace, and leaves us wanting more of we-don’t-know-what.” —Emily Heap, City Lit Books (Chicago, IL)

“With frightening lucidity, All Days Are Night captures the real in the unreal—clear and sharp and delicate, like patterns etched in glass. This smart, compact novel is yet another reason readers of new fiction need to pay more attention to Peter Stamm.” —Hal Hlavinka, powerHouse Books (Brooklyn, NY)

“Lots of novels try to capture our age of the image while—less conspicuously than one might hope—exerting to maintain their own place, as if ‘playing a part in a bad film.’ As unembellished as a work in progress, All Days Are Night upholds its characters in contrast to their best imitations of themselves and asks, alarmingly, which will endure. A story more powerfully concerned with disbelief than any fantasy novel, All Days Are Night is fearless.” —Colin McDonald, Common Good Books (Minneapolis, MN)

“After surviving a car crash that leaves her husband dead and her face disfigured, former news anchor Gillian struggles to reconstruct her identity. In the process of determining where meaning lies outside the confines of her body, Gillian draws valuable distinctions between who she is and who she appears to be. Brooding, meditative, and ultimately redemptive, this is a pitch-perfect winter read!” —Katharine Solheim, Unabridged Bookstore (Chicago, IL)

 

Praise for Seven Years:

Seven Years is a novel to make you doubt your own dogma. What more can a novel do than that?” —Zadie Smith, Harper’s Magazine

“With a patient and impressive commitment to realism, this Swiss novel follows the course of a complicated, troubled marriage…Though Stamm pulls off a quietly spectacular plot twist halfway through the book, he never loses sight of the quotidian things that erode or transform relationships over time.” —New Yorker

“Stamm’s cleverness is to align a spareness that works in translation with his characters’ instinctive fear of all things rich and intense. Lean as it is, his prose is wonderfully ‘literary’ in its fine integration of voice and story. The constant disorientation of his characters, their sense that their lives are interchangeable with any number of other lives, seem peculiarly suited to this era of globalization.” —Tim Parks, The New York Review of Books

“Stamm is a master of quietly deliberative stories. In Seven Years, as in the best of his work, he puts often simple-seeming characters through extraordinary paces, all the more remarkable given the Carver-like restraint he exercises in his writing.” —Bookforum


1. Describe the sense of alienation and displacement Gillian experiences—from her body, her home, her family, and her past decisions. Do you think these experiences are brought about by her disfigurement, or were they there even before her accident? How does Gillian’s relationship with her body change over the course of the novel?

2. What is Gillian’s relationship with invisibility? Think of her game as a child (p 9), her position as a public figure recognized for her beauty and the effect that has on her relationship with Matthias, the floor-length windows in her apartment, and her moving to her parents’ vacation home.

3. On page 68 Hubert tells Gillian, “This isn’t a photo shoot. Can’t you just look normal? As if you were alone?” What is Gillian’s relationship to the male gaze? Are there ever moments in the narrative when she is free of it?

4. What is the significance of Gillian’s training as an actress? In what ways is she put on display even when she is not at work? Who else is put on display in the novel, and what relationship does Gillian have with them?

5. On page 77 we learn, “She couldn’t account for what it was about Hubert that attracted her.” Why do you think Gillian is attracted to Hubert?

6. What effect does the change in point of view have on your reading experience?

7. On page 132 Jill says, “That’s a frightening thought, isn’t it, that you’re capable of killing someone with your art.” How does art influence and inform Gillian and Hubert’s lives? How does your understanding of Hubert’s art change when the narrative changes to his point of view?

8. What is the difference between the two times Hubert sketches Gillian?

9. Does Gillian or Hubert experience “lived moments[s]” (p 147)? What brings about these moments? How do they differ for each character?

10. Why do you think Gillian returns again and again to moments from her childhood?