The Mussel Feast
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The Mussel Feast

3.53 (831 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

The modern German classic that has shaped an entire generation. A mother and her two teenage children sit at the dinner table. In the middle stands a large pot of cooked mussels. Why has the father not returned home? As the evening wears on, we glimpse the issues that are tearing this family apart. ------ 'I wrote this book in August 1989, just before the Fall of the Berlin Wall. I wanted to understand how revolutions start. It seemed logical to use the figure of a tyrannical father and turn the story into a German family saga.' Birgit Vanderbeke ------ Why Peirene chose to publish this book: 'I love this monologue. It's the first Peirene book which made me laugh out loud with tears in my eyes. The author lays bare the contradictory logic of an inflexible mind. This is a poignant yet hilarious narrative with a brilliant ending.' Meike Ziervogel, Publishershow more

Product details

  • Paperback | 112 pages
  • 125 x 190 x 13mm | 166g
  • Peirene Press Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1908670088
  • 9781908670083
  • 34,647

Review quote

'We are playing catch-up here with something of a contemporary European classic.' David Mills, SUNDAY TIMES ------ 'The novella brilliantly renders both the power of the revolutionary moment and the uncertainty of the future it unleashes.' Jane Yager, TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT ------ 'This is one of those books that doesn't tell us what to think, but sets us off thinking ... Who writes this kind of nuanced work in Britain?' Nicholas Lezard, GUARDIAN ------ 'Sinister, funny and heartening, this taut novella reflects, within the microcosm of the family, the dissolution of the East German state, with an insight, economy and controlled fury that have made it a modern German classic.' Chris Schuler, INDEPENDENT ------ 'There is a political edge to Vanderbeke's provocative examination of patriarchal violence, and part of the power of this darkly comic tale is how well it succeeds as an allegory for political tyranny.' Lucy Popescu, INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY ------ 'Astute, darkly funny, provocative, often uncomfortable in its devastating depiction of patriarchal oppression but ultimately uplifting.' Pam Norfolk, LANCASHIRE EVENING POST ------ 'An extraordinary book, the story unspooled with masterful restraint, and written with simplicity and precision.' Francesca Segal, STANDPOINTshow more

About Birgit Vanderbeke

Birgit Vanderbeke, born in 1956, is one of Germany's most successful literary authors. She has written 12 novels. The Mussel Feast was her first publication and won the most prestigious German language literature award, The Ingeborg Bachmann Prize. The book was published in 1989 and has never been out of print since. It has been translated into all major European languages, including French, Spanish and Italian.show more

Rating details

831 ratings
3.53 out of 5 stars
5 19% (157)
4 39% (328)
3 25% (207)
2 10% (82)
1 7% (57)

Our customer reviews

"It was neither a sign nor a coincidence that we were going to have mussels that evening. Yes, it was slightly unusual, and afterwards we sometimes spoke of the mussels as a sign, but they definitely weren't; we also said they were a bad omen - that's nonsense too. Nor were the mussels a coincidence. This evening of all evenings, we'd say, we decided to eat mussels. But it really wasn't like that; you couldn't call it a coincidence. after the event, of course, we tried to interpret our decision as a sign or coincidence, because what came in the wake of our abortive feast was so monumental that none of us have got over it yet." From this opening sentence we are slowly drawn into the world of this family, as told through the narration of the daughter as she, her brother and their mother wait for the head of the family to come home. Sat at the family table around a large pot of now cooling mussels, prepared earlier by the mother - they wait for the father, not realising they have a long wait ahead. The evening progresses, and we learn more about this family and it's absent head. Although the absence is only physical as his presence, like some barghest, haunts every page, revealing a patriarchal figure who controls every aspect of family life, through physical and mental violence. A petty irrational despot whose own obsessions are destroying all he seeks to control. Slowly as the mussels go cold and the wine bought for his arrival is opened and drank, the family relax and, though hesitantly at first, they start to open up to each other and in so doing begin questioning everything they've been told to believe in. Everything that they were to scared to air in the cold light of day is revealed and as though performing an exorcism, they haltingly lay the spirit that has dominated their lives for so long.show more
by parrish lantern
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