Skip to product information
1 of 1

An Ordinary Youth

An Ordinary Youth

by Walter Kempowski, translated from the German by Michael Lipkin

Regular price $19.95
Regular price Sale price $19.95
Sale Sold out
An Ordinary Youth is a novel drawn directly from Walter Kempowski’s boyhood in Rostock, Germany, at the height of the Nazi regime. For Walter, whose family is moving house when the novel opens, the interest is in his tin soldiers and older brother’s jazz records, his father’s fluctuating moods, and his mother’s ministrations and anxieties. The Kempowskis are a close-knit, affectionate family, with their own private jokes and stories, breakfast routines and dinner quarrels; despite the packing crates, everything seems in its rightful place, and no one, least of all Walter, suspects the coming cataclysm. In place of a coherent literary narrative, Kempowski brings the past to life through a choir of voices: dialogue, song, architecture, literature, commercials, and political slogans all speak through Walter’s perspective. Through these deft sketches of Rostock, at the heart of which is his own family, Kempowski shows this hugely turbulent nation—with its mounting intolerance and political machinations (sometimes in gossip, sometimes bombs falling from the sky)—racing toward war. An Ordinary Youth is a time capsule of talk: the talk of the respectable bourgeoisie who are complicit members of a racist, genocidal regime. If there is guilt in Kempowski’s universe, it belongs to the whole body formed by these individual voices. An immediate bestseller when it was first published in Germany in 1971 (as Tadellöser & Wolf), An Ordinary Youth remains the best-known of Kempowski’s novels and the most revealing.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681377209
Pages: 396
Publication Date:


View full details
  • Shopping for someone else but not sure what to give them? Give them the gift of choice with a New York Review Books Gift Card.

    Gift Cards 
  • A membership for yourself or as a gift for a special reader will promise a year of good reading.

    Join NYRB Classics Book Club 
  • Is there a book that you’d like to see back in print, or that you think we should consider for one of our series? Let us know!

    Tell us about it