The End of Days

Jenny Erpenbeck

Published: 28 May 2015
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 192 pages
ISBN: 9781846275159


Winner of the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

From one of the most daring voices in European fiction, this is a story of the twentieth century traced through the various possible lives of one woman. She is a baby who barely suffocates in the cradle. Or perhaps not? She lives to become as an adult and dies beloved. Or dies betrayed. Or perhaps not? Her memory is honoured. Or she is forgotten by everyone. Moving from a small Galician town at the turn of the century, through pre-war Vienna and Stalin's Moscow to present-day Berlin, Jenny Erpenbeck homes in on the moments when life follows a particular branch and 'fate' suddenly emerges from the sly interplay between history, character and pure chance.

The End of Days is a novel that pulls apart the threads of destiny and allows us to see the present and the past anew.

About the author

Image of Jenny Erpenbeck

Jenny Erpenbeck was born in East Berlin in 1967. She has worked on opera and musical productions and her fiction has been translated worldwide. She is the author of The Old Child & The Book of Words, and Visitation. More about the author


‘[An] absolute must-read. It has stunned and moved everyone who has read it’ Arifa Akbar



‘[An] eerily powerful meditation on the ways a life can end... [Erpenbeck] captures [a] primal quality through her dreamy montage-like narration’

‘[I've chosen] Jenny Erpenbeck's The End of Days for its epic sweep and ingenious structure’ Helen Simpson

The End of Days has the same dizzying emotional reach as [Erpenbeck's] previous work... This profound meditation reaches to the heart of a cultural world of spiritual intensity, social utopianism and political catastrophe that has variously shaped German literature - and it is expertly translated by Susan Bernofsky. Incantatory’ Lesley Chamberlain

The End of Days is like the view from a plane zigzagging through the skies over 20th-century Europe, creating a connect-the-dots puzzle... [It] retains the sense of menace integral to any tale of predestination’

The End of Days prises open the troubled box that is 20th-century European history and entrenches [Erpenbeck's] position as the most brilliant European writer of my generation’ Neel Mukherjee ‘Book of the Year’

‘A beautiful meditation on the different possible lives of one woman... The prose is spare and moving: the structure fascinating - all echoes and repeated motifs down the troubled twentieth century. Erpenbeck deftly weaves an understanding of how power and politics play out in an individual life... An intense study of guilt, grief, love and destiny... By the end of this concise novel [...] we have experienced something profound and important. Susan Bernofsky's translation skilfully conveys Erpenbeck's vision: to take us into the dark places and shed light there in unexpected ways.’

‘A compressed epic... Erpenbeck possesses a remarkable gift for shifting, almost unnoticeably, between the telescopic and the microscopic, between the intimate and the cosmic, between the vertical density of a lived moment and vast swaths of geological time. Prepare for a kind of happy vertigo’

‘A genuine European masterpiece’ Roy Foster, Books of the Year

‘A literary event’

‘A memorable and haunting novel’ Christie Hickman

‘A short, musical novel... philosophically and technically ambitious... shot through with an insight that almost blinds... Erpenbeck's Chekhovian talent for letting us into the shifting consciousness of her characters' various incarnations is such that with each death our loss feels definitive. But while in Chekhov there are no exits from personality, here there are no exits from history... Reading Erpenbeck is like falling under hypnosis. Exhilarating’ Kapka Kassabova

‘A wonderfully crafted, memorable read’

‘A worthy winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015, Erpenbeck's echoing story of a single woman's multiple lives [is] an inventive way of exploring the personal and the political. It's the kind of demanding novel that bears, and rewards, repeat reading. Spell-binding’ Lesley McDowell

‘Always startling and profound, Jenny Erpenbeck is a master of allegory. Few contemporary writers can so deftly paint the moral interplay between light and shadow’ Chloe Aridjis

‘An extraordinary piece of work... of immense ambition, both literary - each 'life' comes with its own prose rhythm, language and preoccupations - and politically... It is emotionally ravishing, philosophically provocative and, thanks to this wonderful translation by Susan Bernofsky, poetically lush’ Jane Graham

‘Astonishing and deeply humane’

‘Compactly lyrical... Erpenbeck [has] condensed a century of European history into the turning-points of a woman's life’ Boyd Tonkin ‘Fiction in translation book of the year’

‘Concise and moving... Jenny Erpenbeck makes swift work of the one-life-multiple-outcomes conceit touched on by Kate Atkinson and David Mitchell - and is the best of the bunch’ Tim Martin 'Books of the Year'

‘Erpenbeck deftly handles the constant shifts in narrative throughout this complex novel. Hats off to Susan Bernofsky for her translating skills. It's a masterly piece of work’ Susan Osborne

‘Erpenbeck has honed an extraordinary gift for focusing the sweep of European history into intimate moments, captured in prose of a haunting beauty and tenderness. Hypnotically involving’ Boyd Tonkin

‘Erpenbeck's writing is so powerful and so poetic, her storytelling so nuanced. [She] has important things to tell us; and she tells them beautifully. Masterful Will Gore

‘Her device of an ever-new beginning is a coup. But her refinement in the form of separating the individual stories and intermezzi gives the book the quality of a grand symphony... A great novel’

‘If you think this sounds like Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, think again. Moving [and] involving... its effects are arrived at in a very different way from what we have come to expect from the Anglo-American novel’ David Mills

‘In Erpenbeck's world, everything is connected... through tiny parallels and repetitions - elusive leitmotifs that echo across the protagonist's alternate lives... The wisdom of this novel lies in the way its form subtly subverts death's permanence’ David Winters

‘Sharp and powerful... Erpenbeck's novel intertwines the personal with the grand sweep of history to great effect, underlining the importance of both. I would certainly expect to see The End of Days on the IFFP shortlist; for me, it's potentially a winner’ David Hebblethwaite

‘Startling and profound’ Justine Jordan ‘Fiction Book of the Year’

‘Susan Bernofsky's thoughtful translation does justice to Erpenbeck's masterly prose’ Emma Hagestadt

‘There is no one writing now who is quite like [Erpenbeck], possessing such an understanding of the deep currents of history while gifted with the ability to do such extraordinary things with form. In Susan Bernofsky's lucid, seamless translation, The End of Days emerges as a necessary and illuminating novel, alight with intelligence and meaning. Surprising and profound’ Neel Mukherjee

‘This is a beautifully written novel, impressively translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky. The End of Days is a compelling reminder that worrying about the unknowable will do nothing to delay the inevitable. Masterful’ Alice Fishburn

‘This slim novel packs a mighty punch and richly deserves its numerous accolades’ Lucy Popescu

‘What Erpenbeck perfectly captures in The End of Days is the urgency by which our lives are pushed forward, yet on the other hand the transitory, perhaps futile, nature of human existence’ Will Gore (syndicated review)

‘Wonderfully masterful and at the same time gentle and insightful’

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