December 10, 2018

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Small, simple and plenty of heart

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/10/2015 (1157 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Austrian-born author Robert Seethaler's international bestseller A Whole Life is a quiet reflection on solitude, transformation and contentment.

With clear and deliberate prose, Seethaler tells the story of Andreas Egger, a simple man carrying out a gentle existence in a harsh world. Sent to live with relatives in the Austrian Alps as a young child, Egger grows up as an outsider with little sense of family or home. Though he shares meals and a bed with his cousins, he is an outcast.

Egger is made to feel unwelcome and inadequate, and is often punished by his uncle simply because his existence offends him. One night, his uncle goes too far and breaks Egger's leg. For six months, Egger heals in isolation, but despite the best efforts, his leg is permanently crippled.

Once Egger comes to terms with the enduring consequences of his uncle's actions, he finally stands up to him and grows from a meek boy to a strong man.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/10/2015 (1157 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Austrian-born author Robert Seethaler's international bestseller A Whole Life is a quiet reflection on solitude, transformation and contentment.

With clear and deliberate prose, Seethaler tells the story of Andreas Egger, a simple man carrying out a gentle existence in a harsh world. Sent to live with relatives in the Austrian Alps as a young child, Egger grows up as an outsider with little sense of family or home. Though he shares meals and a bed with his cousins, he is an outcast.

A Whole Life 
By Robert Seethaler

A Whole Life By Robert Seethaler

Egger is made to feel unwelcome and inadequate, and is often punished by his uncle simply because his existence offends him. One night, his uncle goes too far and breaks Egger's leg. For six months, Egger heals in isolation, but despite the best efforts, his leg is permanently crippled.

Once Egger comes to terms with the enduring consequences of his uncle's actions, he finally stands up to him and grows from a meek boy to a strong man.

Egger becomes a jack-of-all-trades, doing odd jobs around town to earn enough to live off the land. A man of nature and of the mountains, he decides to work with a cable car company. As his village begins to transform through the cable car development, Egger grapples with the evolution occurring in his life, his country and the world.

Often hesitant to embrace change, it takes some time before Egger finally proposes to his love, Marie. When spoken and written words fail him, Egger uses the Alps as his page and fire as his pen, inscribing the words "For you, Marie" in the mountainside.

The couple's tender romance is short-lived, wiped away in a devastating avalanche soon after their marriage. Heartbroken, Egger immerses himself in dangerous work on cable car systems in the surrounding valleys, though he never strays far from home.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Egger leaves his valley for the Caucasus to fight for his country. Here he is imprisoned until well after the war is over, and once he finally returns home, he finds that the world — his world — has inexplicably changed. Progress has reached his village, while Egger tries to exist in the simplicity of the past.

Egger finds work as a mountain guide, taking full advantage of the booming tourism industry in his newly modern village. He never remarries, and makes few friends; though constantly surrounded by people, Egger lives in seclusion, moving from place to place. He eventually settles in an abandoned cattle shed apart from the village, where he lives out the end of his days.

As life and death come full circle in this tiny alpine hamlet, we reflect on a life well lived. Alone but never lonely, heartbroken yet full of heart, Andreas Egger is a man who carves his own path to fulfilment.

Seethaler's fifth novel is a short book, but not a quick read. It's a lovely story, and stands as a testament to the fact only we can define our happiness, and life is what you make it.

Katrina Sklepowich is a lover of all things literary and creator of the Literally, Katrina podcast and blog at LiterallyKatrina.com.

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