The Day My Grandfather Was a Hero is the shortest book of my Reading Challenge 2021. Set in Austria in 1945, the book tells the story of lives entirely changed by the war. It is not a book that everyone will love to read; Frankly, I could not find what I was looking for.
The Day My Grandfather Was a Hero is narrated by 13-year-old Nelli. Nelli lost her family in a bombing, fled to the countryside and was adopted by a farming family. She doesn’t remember much as a result of her traumas. We do not have a very reliable narrator, so it is not easy to understand what is going on, and there is no plot to follow. Another person joins the house where Nelli took shelter: a Russian prisoner of war. And this man has something he is hiding at the expense of his life. And the soldiers settling on the farm also causes people who are overwhelmed by the war to get very tense.
I read the book as if trying to predict the events behind a fogged glass. I have no clear idea of what exactly happened. So I cannot recommend it to everyone, but it can offer a different reading experience if you are interested in war books. Enjoy!
The Day My Grandfather Was a Hero
In October 1944, a thirteen-year-old girl arrives in a tiny farming community in Lower Austria, at some distance from the main theatre of war. She remembers very little about how she got there, it seems she has suffered trauma from bombardment. One night a few months later, a young, emaciated Russian appears, a deserter from forced labour in the east. He has nothing with him but a canvas roll, which he guards like a hawk. Their burgeoning friendship is abruptly interrupt by the arrival of a group of Wehrmacht soldiers in retreat, who commandeer the farm.
Paulus Hochgatterer’s intensely atmospheric, resonant novel is like a painting in itself, a beautiful observation of small shifts from apathy in a community not directly affect by the war, but exhaust by it nonetheless; individual acts of moral bravery which to some extent have the power to change the course of history.
Longlist for the Austrian Book Prize 2017, this subtle, evocative novella will appeal to readers of Hubert Mingarelli’s A MEAL IN WINTER and Jenny Erpenbeck’s THE END OF DAYS.
Paulus Hochgatterer (born 16 July 1961) is an Austrian writer and psychiatrist. He is the author of several novels and story collections. One of his novels called Die Süsse des Lebens won the EU Prize for Literature. It was translate into English as The Sweetness of Life by Jamie Bulloch.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: