The Field by Robert Seethaler
Translated by Charlotte Collins
From their graves in the field, the oldest part of Paulstadt’s cemetery, the town’s late inhabitants tell stories from their lives. Some recall just a moment, perhaps the one in which they left this world, perhaps the one that they now realize shaped their life forever. Some remember all the people they’ve been with, or the only person they ever loved.
These voices together – young, old, rich poor – build a picture of a community, as viewed from below ground instead of from above. The streets of the small, sleepy provincial town of Paulstadt are given shape and meaning by those who lived, loved, worked, mourned and died there.
From the author of the Booker International-shortlisted A Whole Life, Robert Seethaler’s The Field is about what happens at the end. It is a book of human lives – each one different, yet connected to countless others – that ultimately shows how life, for all its fleetingness, still has meaning.
From the author of the 2016 Man Booker Prize shortlisted A Whole Life, Robert Seethaler returns with The Field (Picador) a novel that heads to a fictional small town of Paulstadt and the cemetery. But it is those that are buried here and the stories they tell and the conversations they have. These are their stories.
I loved reading A Whole Life and The Tobacconist and Robert Seeethaler does not disappoint with The Field. With each of his novels there is a real sense of quiet storytelling. In the town of Paulstadt lies a field and this is the oldest part of the cemetery and here lie some of the towns most outspoken residents.
The story begins as an old man sits and contemplates those that are buried here and what if they could talk? What would they say? And so, it begins, those long departed begin the conversations.
Far from resting quietly these are some of the most outspoken of the community, they were the old, the young, poor, or wealthy but now they are recounting their lives, or some recall a moment from their lives as it has just happened or may be happier or sad times. But one that lies here just has one word to say.
I have to say that this is unlike anything I have read before conversations of those departed. Each chapter begins with the name of the departed soul, but that is it, the stories they tell is of different moments in time from early days of the town to how the town grew. Each of the deceased has their own story to tell. Some angry some just quiet reflection from a child’s voice to the oldest of the inhabitants of the field. Not all the conversations are sad, there is some joyful conversations, but this is mixed with great sadness and Seethaler manages to bring not only the conversations to life but the history of the town of Paulstadt and its inhabitants who now lie here. A real mix of characters and their professions.
The Field is Wonderfully crafted by Robert Seethaler and beautifully translated by Charlotte Collins.
You can follow Charlotte Collins on Twitter: @cctranslates
My thanks to Camilla Elworthy for the review copy of The Field by Robert Seethaler.
The Field by Robert Seethaler will be published by Picador on 18th March 2021 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org