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Distributed for DIAPHANES


Translated from the French by Elizabeth Preston

Distributed for DIAPHANES


Translated from the French by Elizabeth Preston
“Born too late to see the war and too early to forget it.” So writes Reiner Schürmann in Origins, a startlingly personal account of life as a young man from postwar Germany in the 1960s. Schürmann’s semi-autobiographical protagonist is incapable of escaping a past he never consciously experienced. All around him are barely concealed reminders of Nazi-inflicted death and destruction. His own experiences of displacement and rootlessness, too, are the burden of a cruel collective past. His story presents itself as a continuous quest for—and struggle to free himself from—his origins. The hero is haunted relentlessly by his fractured identity—in his childhood at his father’s factory, where he learns of the Nazi past through a horrible discovery; in an Israeli kibbutz, where, after a few months of happiness, he is thrown out for being a German; in postwar Freiburg, where he reencounters a friend who escaped the Nazi concentration camps; and finally, in the United States, where his attempts at a fresh start almost fail to exorcise the ghosts of the past.

Originally published in French in 1976, Origins was the winner of the coveted Prix Broquette-Gonin of the Académie Francaise. In close collaboration with the author, this meticulously crafted translation was created in the early 1990s, but Schürmann’s premature death in 1993 prevented its publication process and, as a result, one of the most important literary accounts of the conflicted process of coming to terms with the Holocaust and Germany’s Nazi past has been unavailable to English readers until now. Candid and frank, filled with fury and caustic sarcasm, Origins offers insight into a generation caught between disappointment and rage, alignment and rebellion, guilt and obsession with the past.

272 pages | 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 | © 2016



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“An existential and deeply moving book.”

Die Zeit, on the German-language edition

“Exciting in its uniqueness. . . . [Schürmann] writes under the influence of a ‘masked language’ that whispers to him at every word that the blood in his veins is the same as Adolf Eichmann’s.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, on the German-language edition

Origins was published in French in 1976. It was not written as a commentary on the public resurgence of fascist sympathies we have witnessed over the past few years. Yet in light of recent events, and not only of August’s deadly fascist rally in Charlottesville, VA, it comes to us today strikingly au courant. . . . Schürmann’s limpid style, guilelessly shifting between internal states and external appearances, placidness and excitation, carries the whole effortlessly along.”

Make Literary Magazine

Table of Contents

Reiner Schürmann

Translated from the French
by Elizabeth Preston

in collaboration with the author

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