Set against the backdrop of Frankfurt s affluent suburbs, this elliptical tale of coincidence and necessity unfolds through a series of masterly constructed vignettes, which gradually come together to form a scintillating portrait of the funny, tender, and destructive guises that love between two people can assume and the effect it has on everyone around them. Hailed in Germany as the first great social novel of the twenty-first century, "What Was Before" is an "Elective Affinities" for our time."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-10-20
- Reviewer: Staff
Mosebach's (Heresy of Formlessness) novel plumbs the meanings and complexities of storytelling, and the unreliability of anything said to another person. The story begins with a young man and his lover sharing post-coital talk, the lover asking the young man what his life was like before he met her. What follows is a luscious romp through the upper echelons of Frankfurt society. The young man accepts an invitation to spend a Sunday afternoon with a friend, Titus Hopsten. Soon plunged into the Hopstens' extravagant world, where rare birds run amok in grandiose villas and love affairs bring people together and tear families apart, our protagonist relates a tale that his girlfriend only half believes. Mosebach's charming, exuberant narrator is not be trusted, and the novel calls into question our notions of memory. Mosebach's writing is florid, tinged with a biting wit. Beneath these layered vignettes of the Hopstens and their inner circle is a tale of a young couple in love, and all the insecurities such love can bring. Irreverent, playful, and intricate, Mosebach's book is a deconstruction of how we choose to tell stories. (Oct.)