Peter Stamm translated from the German by Michael Hofmann

To the Back of Beyond

Publication Date: Oct 03, 2017

160 pp

Trade Paperback

List Price US $15.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
ISBN: 978-1-59051-828-1


List Price US $14.99
ISBN: 978-1-59051-829-8

Man Booker International Prize nominee Peter Stamm’s sixth novel explores what it means to be in the middle of nowhere, in mind and in body.

Happily married with two children and a comfortable home in a Swiss town, Thomas and Astrid enjoy a glass of wine in their garden on a night like any other. Called back to the house by their son’s cries, Astrid goes inside, expecting her husband to join her in a bit. But Thomas gets up and, after a brief moment of hesitation, opens the gate, walks out, and leaves.

No longer bound by the ties of everyday life—family, friends, and work—Thomas begins a meandering trek through the countryside, at the mercy of the Alpine winter. Back home, Astrid wonders where he’s gone, when he’ll come back, and whether he’s still alive.

Following Thomas and Astrid on their separate paths, To the Back of Beyond is ultimately a meditation on the limits of freedom and the need to be wanted.

Excerpt from To the Back of Beyond

The light came on in Astrid and Thomas’s bedroom, through the shutters it cast a pattern of stripes on the lawn, which had already lost all color with the onset of darkness. Astrid went into the bathroom, then out to the corridor again, to fetch the sponge bag out of the suitcase. She looked herself in the mirror with that blank expression with which she sometimes looked at Thomas. He used to ask her what she was thinking about, but she would invariably reply, Oh, nothing, and over the years he had begun to believe her and stopped asking.
Thomas folded up the newspaper and laid it on the garden seat. He picked up his glass, thinking he would finish it, then hesitated, rolled the wine around a few times, and set it down next to Astrid’s empty glass, without having touched a drop. It was less a thought than a vision: the empty bench at dawn, the newspaper on it, sodden with dew, and their two glasses, the half-full one containing a few drowned fruit flies. The morning sun was shining through the glasses, leaving a reddish stain on the pale gray wood. Then the children emerged from the house and joined the straggle of other children on their way to school or kindergarten. A little later, Thomas left for work. He said hello to the old woman whose name he had once known but had now forgotten. He saw her out with her dog almost every morning; in spite of her age she had a vigorous walk, and a loud, confident voice when she said hello back to him, as though everything was fine and always would be. By the time he got home at lunchtime, the newspapers and the wineglasses would have been whisked away.

Praise for Agnes:

“A kind of parable…simple and haunting.” —New York Review of Books

“Agnes is a moody, unsettled, and elusive little fable—and it’s always interesting.” —Wall Street Journal

“A provocative and mesmerizing book.” —Publishers Weekly

“An urgent and unsettling read.” —Library Journal

“This short novel should appeal to readers enchanted by [Stamm’s] elliptical style . . . an extended meditation on the interrelationship between life and fiction.” —Kirkus