You Would Have Missed Me

by Birgit Vanderbeke


‘I can’t remember what it was like being born, but from what they used to tell me it seemed almost as if everything had been fine up to that point.’

Standing in her family’s two-bedroom flat in the Promised Land, a little girl realizes that once again she won’t be getting a cat for her birthday. She’s been wanting one ever since she was five – all the way back to when they were living in the refugee camp. In the East, her Grandma made cakes and kept rabbits; now there is no baking, no pets and certainly no Grandma. West Germany in the early 1960s is a difficult place for a seven-year-old East German refugee, particularly when no one will listen to you.

Runner up of the 2020 Schlegel-Tieck Prize. Jamie Bulloch’s translation of Birgit Vanderbeke’s novel The Mussel Feast won the 2014 Schlegel-Tieck Prize and was shortlisted for the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

Now available as an audiobook from Spiracle

Translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch

154pp, paperback with flaps, £12.00
ISBN 978-1-908670-52-6
Publication date: 15 June 2019

Press & Reviews

‘A haunting work that starts out lightheartedly, almost whimsically, only for its well-calculated blows to strike us all the harder when the true subject matter of the novel becomes apparent...beautifully rendered into English by Jamie Bulloch.’ - Anna Katharina Schaffner, TLS

'Germany’s authoritarian past haunts Birgit Vanderbeke’s exploration of patriarchal tyranny in The Mussel Feast and You Would Have Missed Me. The two novellas, published by Peirene Press and superbly translated by the ever-reliable Jamie Bulloch. - Lucy Popescu, The Riveter

‘A pitch-perfect account of what it’s like to be a child...set to be one of this year's favourites.’ - Anne Goodwin

‘A graceful, feather-light novel whose true weight is revealed only gradually.’ - MDK Kultur

‘A hauntingly brilliant evocation of childhood.' - Jackie Law, Never Imitate

'[Jamie Bullock translates] an emotional dialect...a careful, wonderful, rendering.’ - The Worm Hole

About The Book


One of Germany’s most successful authors, Birgit Vanderbeke was born in Dahme, East Germany, in 1956. When she was six her family fled to the West and she grew up in Frankfurt. She has written twenty-one novels and won five prestigious literary awards, including the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize and the Kranichstein Literary Prize.


Jamie Bulloch is a historian and has worked as a professional translator from German since 2001. His works include books by Paulus Hochgatterer and Alissa Walser. He is the translator of five Peirene titles: Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman, Sea of Ink, The Mussel Feast, The Empress and the Cake and The Last Summer.