Following the conventions of a different genre, each of the pieces in Schalansky's Inventory considers something that is irretrievably lost to the world, from the paradisal island of Tuanaki, the Caspian Tiger or the Villa Sacchetti in Rome, to Sappho's love poems, Greta Garbo's fading beauty or a painting by Caspar David Friedrich. As a child of the former East Germany, it's not surprising that "loss" and its aftermath should haunt Schalansky's writing, but what is extraordinary and exhilarating is the engaging mixture of intellectual curiosity, ironic humour, stylistic elegance, intensity of feeling and grasp of life's pitiless vitality, that combine to make this one of the most original literary works of recent times. Translated from the German by Jackie Smith

An Inventory of Losses; Judith Schalansky

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