Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman

by Friedrich Christian Delius


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Available to buy as an ebook from Amazon and Kobo.

A literary masterpiece by one of Germany’s most renowned contemporary writers.

Rome, one January afternoon in 1943. A young German woman is on her way to listen to a Bach concert at the Lutheran church. Innocent and naïve, the war is for her little more than a day-dream, until she realizes that her husband might never return.
This is a mesmerizing psychological portrait of the human need to safeguard innocence and integrity at any cost – even at the risk of excluding reality.

Written by Friedrich Christian Delius.
Translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch.

Why Peirene chose to publish this book:
I was simply enthralled by the structure of this narrative; a single 117-page long sentence with a beautifully clear rhythm. At the same time it’s a compelling and credible description of a “typical” young German woman during the Nazi era. If we can relate to her we come close to understanding the forces that were shaping an entire generation.

Female Voice series
125pp, Paperback with Flaps, £10.00
ISBN 978-0-9562840-0-6
eISBN 978-1-908670-01-4

Press & Reviews

'The book's last paragraph, overtly expressing nothing more than the young woman's intention to write a letter, is one of the most moving conclusions I've ever read.' Nick Lezard, The Guardian

'Jamie Bulloch's excellent translation keeps the supple and rhythmic flow of Delius's language. This is a small masterpiece.' Helmut Schmitz, TLS

'Delius understands the forces that shape Germany and has the gift to articulate joy, beauty and love.' Rosie Goldsmith, The Independent

'Impresses with both the sympathy it creates for its bewildered protagonist and the musicality of its prose.' Adrian Turpin, Financial Times

'Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman is a beautifully crafted work of superb psychological intensity and proof, if it was needed, of the potency of the written word.' Pam Norfolk, Lancashire Evening Post

About The Book


Friedrich Christian Delius is one of the most critically acclaimed contemporary German writers. He was born in 1943 and lives in Berlin and Rome. His first poetry collection appeared in 1965. Since then he has published 14 novels, 5 poetry collections and has recently written the libretto for the opera Prospero by Luca Lombardi. His books have been translated into 17 languages. In May 2011 Friedrich Christian Delius won the most prestigious German literary award, the Georg-Buchner Prize.



Jamie Bulloch is a historian and has worked as a professional translator from German since 2001. After studying Modern Languages, he obtained an MA in Central European History and followed up with a PhD in interwar Austrian history. His translations include books by Paulus Hochgatterer, Alissa Walser and Timur Vermes. He is the translator of five Peirene titles: Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius, Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe, The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke, winner of the 2015 Schlegel-Tieck Prize for German Translation, The Empress and the Cake by Linda Stift and The Last Summer by Ricarda Huch. He is also the author of A Short History of Tuscany and Karl Renner: Austria.