Peirene No. 29

You Would Have Missed Me

Birgit Vanderbeke


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  • Description

    ‘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.

    Why Peirene chose to publish this book:

    Today, as in the past, people flee from one country to another in the hope of finding a better future. But how do children experience such displacement? How do they cope with traumas of a refugee camp? In this novel Birgit Vanderbeke goes back to her own childhood in the divided Germany of the 1960s. She shows how the little girl she once was saved herself by imagining countries on the far side of the world. A masterpiece of memory turned into fiction.

    Written by Birgit Vanderbeke
    Translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch

    There Be Monsters series
    154pp, paperback with flaps, £12
    ISBN 978-1-908670-52-6
    eISBN 978-1-908670-53-3

  • Author

    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.

  • Translator

    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.

  • Press

    ‘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

    ‘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

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

    A hauntingly brilliant evocation of childhood.’ Jackie Law, Never Imitate

    ‘A novel full of pain, humour and hope.’  WDR, Scala-Bücher