The Old Child And The Book Of Words

Jenny Erpenbeck

Published: 1 December 2008
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 192 pages
ISBN: 9781846270581

Translated by Susan Bernofsky


A child is found standing on the street with an empty bucket in her hand and no memory of her name, her family or her past. Elsewhere, a girl grows up surrounded by familiar faces - a wet nurse, a piano teacher, a gardener, a best friend and a distant mother - but soon finds them slipping mysteriously from her life. In the company of these girls, we are compelled to tread the uncertain and spiky terrain of memory, where words are dropped like clues to reveal what has been hidden, forgotten or erased.

About the author

Image of Jenny Erpenbeck

Jenny Erpenbeck was born in East Berlin in 1967. She has worked on opera and musical productions and her fiction has been translated worldwide. She is the author of The Old Child & The Book of Words, and Visitation. More about the author


‘A haunting, offbeat novella of real profundity’ Lionel Shriver, author of WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN



‘Don't try to learn too much about the origins of these two spare and spooky novellas before you submit to their uncanny mood ... What lies beyond ambiguity, in Susan Bernofsky's pin-sharp translations, is Erpenbeck's power to grip, chill - and haunt’ Boyd Tonkin

‘Erpenbeck excels as miniaturist, examining the psychology of her blank-eyed outsider with language as sharp as a scalpel’

‘Intense and beautifully written’

‘The kind of stories that enter the imagination by stealth ... Like dysfunctional fairy tales, these beautifully written stories explore the shifting sands of memory and identity’

‘These two novellas showcase Erpenbeck's disconcerting material and her pared-down style ... The subtle interplay of childish interpretation and adult euphemism, gradually unravelling its grim meaning is thoroughly chilling’ James Urquhart

‘With the detached spare prose and mysterious internal logic of a fairy tale, the writing has a dark, transformative power - it gets into the blood stream and refuses to leave. Beguiling and original’

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