Peter Stamm translated from the German by Michael Hofmann

On a Day Like This

Publication Date: Jul 08, 2008

240 pp

Trade Paperback

List Price US $15.95
ISBN: 9781590514993


List Price US $13.99
ISBN: 9781590514092


List Price US $23.95
ISBN: 9781590512791

A new novel of artful understatement about mortality, estrangement, and the absurdity of life from the acclaimed author of Unformed Landscape and In Strange Gardens

On a day like any other, Andreas changes his life. When a routine doctor’s visit leads to an unexpected prognosis, a great yearning takes hold of him—but who can tell if it is homesickness or wanderlust? Andreas leaves everything behind, sells his Paris apartment; cuts off all social ties; quits his teaching job; and waves goodbye to his days spent idly sitting in cafes—to look for a woman he once loved, half a lifetime ago. The monotony of days has been keeping him in check; now he hopes for a miracle and for a new beginning.

Andreas’ travels lead him back to the province of his youth, back to his hometown in Switzerland where he returns to familiar streets, where his brother still lives in their childhood home, and where Fabienne, a woman he was obsessed with in his youth, visits the same lake they once swam in together. Andreas, still consumed with longing for his lost love and blinded by the uncertainty of his future, is tormented by the question of what might have been if things had happened differently.

Peter Stamm has been praised as a “stylistic ascetic” and his prose as “distinguished by lapidary expression, telegraphic terseness, and finely tuned sensitivity” (Bookforum). In On a Day Like This, Stamm’s unobtrusive observational style allows us to journey with our antihero through his crises of banality, of living in his empty world, and the realization that life is finite—that one must live it, as long as that is possible.

Excerpt from On a Day Like This

“What Peter Stamm has done with this novel is recreate life in all of its quiet banality–this is art— Stamm’s achievement isn’t the mere weaving of a story, it’s the report of a life in quiet crisis.” —The Review of Contemporary Fiction

1. In the beginning, Andreas defines emptiness as “the normal state of things…nor was it anything he was afraid of–quite the opposite.” Do you agree with this definition? How does Andreas’s idea of emptiness change throughout the novel?

2. Why is Andreas so critical of everyone he knows? Is he equally critical of himself?

3. What prompts Andreas to flee the doctor’s office before he hears the results of his biopsy? In what ways might the story change if he knew whether he was ill or not?

4. What drives Delphine’s immediate attachment to Andreas despite his fickle treatment of her? Why does she accept his apologies without question?

5. Compare and contrast the women in Andreas’s life– Fabienne, Nadia, Sylvie, and Delphine. How are these women portrayed? Does Andreas genuinely care for any of them?

6. Look at the scene when Jean-Marc’s wife, Marthe, tells Andreas the tragic story of the great love of her life that never panned out. Why does Andreas envy Marthe’s love for Philippe? What is the difference between love and possession?

7. Examine several of the passages in which Andreas observes the monotonous and mundane details of everyday life. What themes can you draw from these descriptions?

8. After sneaking into his childhood home, now owned by his brother’s family, Andreas says, “It’s all gone now.” What is Andreas searching for by going back to his hometown? Why is he holding onto the past so tightly?

9. How does Andreas’s memory of Fabienne compare to reality when he finally meets her again? Does their difference in the way they remember their past make a more universal statement about the dangers of glorifying the past?

10. Andreas admits that “he sometimes wondered what life would be like if he had never left the village.” Do you think he regrets his decision to leave? What does this reveal about his character? What events cause him to continually question his choices?

11. From the beginning, Andreas hints that he and his brother are not close and fail to communicate. How is their visit to their father’s grave a catalyst for a greater understanding of each other?

12. In the last scene, Andreas unites with Delphine on a crowded beach and the novel ends with the sentence “Only the crashing of the waves was very near and held him.” How did you interpret this sentence and the final scene? Has Andreas completed his journey? Is he finally content?