Troubador Epitaph for a Working Man

Released: 28/06/2015

ISBN: 9781784622992

eISBN: 9781784625634

Format: Paperback/eBook

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Epitaph for a Working Man

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This is a vivid, unsentimental yet intensely moving portrayal of an old man who, in spite of his failing health, stubbornly continues to actively enjoy life – going to the pub, smoking and drinking, doing stonemason’s jobs, observing and commenting on the people around him. His environment and social relationships – as well as those of his son, the narrator – are portrayed with great attention to detail, providing us with an unfamiliar, realistic and sometimes humorous picture of run-of-the-mill everyday life in a provincial part of Switzerland in the 1980s. In Epitaph for a Working Man, Erhard von Büren’s laconic account, written from the son’s viewpoint, is dispassionate and occasionally harsh, but it becomes a loving homage to the father. The old man’s life is encapsulated in his final year: his toughness and his weakness, his dedication, his roughness and his gentleness.

The 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage aims to encourage more people to discover and engage with Europe's cultural heritage. In an article in the Swiss cultural magazine SoRock, Felix Epper reports on how Helen Wallimann has contributed by translating Erhard von Bueren's Swiss novels and thus making them available to the English-speaking world.

To read the article (in German) see: http://www.sorock.ch/ausgabe-nr-4/ (pages 54-55).


For detailed reviews of Erhard von Bueren's novels see, among others, The Modern Novel:
https://www.themodernnovel.org/europe/w-europe/switzerland/erhard-von-buren/a-lo

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Stephanie Jane

Gleaningful

A great book to read and discuss for Book Clubs groups

This book lends itself to interesting discussion. The theme encompasses the development of a renewed friendship between a middle-aged son and his dying father, an accomplished stone mason who is now resident in a nursing home. This book is well written, the characters making difficult choices and dealing with life issues that readers can readily identify with.

by Heidi Inman


I had read the original in German, but have found the English version very well translated and it catches the pathos of the crotchety old timer with kindly affection.

by Tony Raeber


An oddly touching novella with a sense of elegaic loss, defeat and inevitability. Yet this book is not depressing. It has a sadness, or perhaps a classic European ennui found in the works of Camus, Kundera and Mercier. The protagonist is unemployed, his wife is having an affair and his father is dying. With a certain inertia, the younger man connects with his ebullient father less as a relative, more as a member of the audience. It's touching and truthful and thought-provoking. There are so many layers here - the father's stonemasonry, the son's typesetting. The individual and the collective, the military and the Swiss culture all play their role in this short yet powerful rendition of a relationship. Well worth a read.

by leekmuncher


I was favorably impressed, first of all, by the wonderfully spare prose style. It was oddly refreshing. Although the plot of the novel is fairly straightforward--a son helps his cancer-stricken father through the last year of his life. The novel is narrated by the son. What made the novel hard to put down is not the plot but the son's constant questioning of what the meaning of it all is. And it is not just his father and his father's cancer but also the changing nature of work, his unemployment, the slow dissolution of his marriage, national service, news and the meaning of his life. This is balanced with a matter of fact descriptive tone.

I was particularly intrigued by the younger Haller--his disconnect with his father, the community around him, his wife and the world generally. Yes, he listens to the news but it seems to have no impact on him. The sense of futile abeyance that emanates from him reminded me of certain characters from writers like Camus and Kafka. He seems to spend his life waiting for something but what that may be remains elusive. That his craft, he was a typesetter, has been destroyed by the thoughtless march of modernity also resonated with me.

This is a novel to get you thinking.

by Amazon customer


What a touching story. Makes you really take a look at people and their lives. I won it in a contest and it was a very good read!

by Melanie (Goodreads)


Erhard  von Büren

Erhard von Buren was born near Solothurn, Switzerland. After a PhD in Psychology and German philology from Zurich University and study stays in France he worked as a teacher in advanced teacher training.

Besides various articles in anthologies and journals, he has had three novels published in Switzerland: Abdankung. Ein Bericht (Zytglogge Verlag, Bern 1989), Wespenzeit (Rotpunktverlag, Zurich 2000), Ein langer blauer Montag (verlag die Brotsuppe. Biel/Bienne 2013).

After Epitaph for a Working Man and Wasp Days, A Long Blue Monday is the third of his books to be published in English.

Erhard von Büren has won various literary awards including the Canton of Solothurn Prize for Literature in 2007. He lives in Solothurn.

Homepage: http://www.erhard-von-bueren.ch

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