Equally insightful, deep, and funny, Kempowski’s book portrays one man’s experience of a collective German post-war phenomenon: the desperate attempt of rationalizing what it means to live with the Nazi regime’s devastating legacy. We follow the protagonist on his gripping inner journey as he navigates conflicting feelings of shame and arrogance, empathy and ignorance. It is the portrayal of this sense of utter disorientation as well as Kempowski’s ultimate conclusion — that the only constructive way of addressing one’s country’s guilt is through a deeply emotional, personal confrontation — that makes Marrow and Bone so humane.
—Nora Krug, author of Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home
Kempowski’s Marrow and Bone is a staggering book about our blind spots, the dead who live within us. About the cruelty of the human race, which is more fundamental to our nature than the concept of guilt by which we seek to exorcise it. And about our forsakenness in the world, which is greater than the daily routines in which we try to find salvation.
[A] subtly devastating portrait of how a life can be defined by memories of past suffering, even when those memories appear to be submerged under a calm surface.
—Lucian Robinson, The Times Literary Supplement
[Marrow and Bone] walks a tightrope between black humor and horror . . . the past bleeds, unasked and largely unremarked, into the present; in the end, neither German suffering nor German guilt can be suppressed.
Fresh, wise, very funny and intuitive . . . Kempowski’s laconic, all-knowing voice is impressively in evidence here in Charlotte Collins’s nuanced, ironic translation.
Kempowski’s writing is reflective but rarely solemn. The tension and fear that permeated all aspects of life at that time created a somber world but through his lens it is the absurdity that shows through.
—Bradley Babendir, Chicago Review of Books
A pathos-filled black comedy of errors.
—The Daily Telegraph
Marrow and Bone isn’t so much a specimen of Trümmerliteratur—a sort of German neorealism that sprang up in the immediate postwar years and centered around returning soldiers—as it is a sterling inversion of the genre. . . . At the heart of Marrow and Bone lies a familiar question: How can a nation go about reckoning with its past when the narratives of suffering and guilt have lost their immanence?
—Bailey Trela, On the Seawall
[A] grimly entertaining road trip novel . . . The true power of Marrow and Bone, adeptly translated by Charlotte Collins, comes in Kempowski’s sly exposure of Jonathan’s aesthetic voyeurism, his fumbling attempts to mourn, and his blind man’s bluff with the German past.
—Thomas Meaney, Washington Examiner