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The End Of Days

The End of Days


The End of Days
(Aller Tage Abend)
by Jenny Erpenbeck,
tr. Susan Bernofsky

Hardcover, 256 pages
Published November 27th 2014
by New Directions Publishing Corporation

ISBN: 9780811221924

Literary awards:
Deutscher Buchpreis Nominee for Longlist (2012), Joseph-Breitenbach-Preis (2013)



This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

 New Authors 2015   2015 Translation


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The IFFP Shadow Panel is giving me great opportunities to read books I may not even have heard about. I’m really glad I discovered Jenny Erpenbeck with The End of Days, translated from the German. It offers an interesting structure and has a great writing style as well.

This is the story of three generations of Jewish women, with a special focus on the grand-daughter. The originality of the book is that the five parts reinvent the story of the same woman. She dies as a young baby in the first book. An Intermezzo between each part rethinks what could have happened if the circumstances, small details of life, had been different. And next part illustrates it. So far instance in next part she makes it in childhood but dies as a teen. Etc.

This was a fascinating literary device I thought. Plus the author varies her writing style in between the different parts.  I enjoyed the present tense narrative. Another interesting style element for me was how dialogs are for the most part inserted in the narrative, without quotations marks or dialog punctuation. It gives a remarkable flow to the whole piece.
Also, some parts are written in a very slow mode, for instance when describing life in mourning. Whereas the narration can suddenly accelerate in an awesome way for other parts.

The End of Days p44

Some passages are full of lyricism, for instance when the narrator describes the effect of war on his wife’s face (Book II, chapter 7)
It was neat to find some leitmotivs between the stories, either objects like a stool or expressions like “the end of days.”

For many years now she has known something that her daughter will soon be forced to learn: A day in which a life comes to an end is still far from being the end of days.
p. 15
The end of a day on which a life has ended is still far from being the end of days.

There are also important themes treated all along, like Jewish traditions, the fate of Jews in Europe, and their perseverance through suffering in all its facets, as referred to in the title and its recurrence throughout the book; immigration (the scene at Ellis Island like people waiting on the Last Judgement if they are going to be accepted in or not was striking – see excerpt above; family relationships; Communism and political situation in Europe after WWII.

VERDICT: Great piece of literature reflecting on life circumstances and how a small detail could change everything. Illustrated with a unique original structure and writing style. Perfect if you enjoy trying something different.


So far (follow its evolution after each of my IFFP reviews) my list in order of likes would then go like that:

  1. The End of Days, by Jenny Erpenbeck
  2. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami,
  3. By Night the Mountain Burns, by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel


To know more about the IFFP and the IFFP Shadow Panel, please see the other posts in this category