Robert Seethaler is one of those writers I discovered by mere chance in a bookshop when I was browsing the shelves aimlessly. I first read A Whole Life from him, and I was already in love when I finished the book. So I had to read The Tobacconist as well. It is the second novel by Seethaler that was published in English. I hope there’ll be many more!
The Tobacconist tells the story of a young man; Franz (17), in the year 1937. After his Mama loses her wealthy boyfriend, Franz has to leave his small village and go to the great city of Vienna. He has always been a mama’s boy, and he has no experience, never worked before in his spoilt life and didn’t even think about it. However, times are changing, the money is short, and he has to work as well.
The Tobacconist in Vienna
So he goes to Vienna all alone and starts to work as an apprentice in Otto’s tobacco shop. Otto is an old friend of his mother’s. Lucky for Franz, Otto is a kind man and the job is relatively easy. He just has to read the papers every day and learn about the customers. Among the regular customers of the shop is the famous Professor Sigmund Freud. One day, Freud will tell Franz to find a girl and this will change their relationship forever.
But do you know what happens in 1938? Austria unites with Nazi Germany and everything changes in their lives irrevocably. This book is a coming of age story with many layers. There is love, war, sexual awakening, psychology, friendship, loss and longing. Oh, and Seethaler’s voice is captivating and otherworldly. You have to read him!
I wouldn’t have read this book if I didn’t love Seethaler’s The Whole Life. The thing is, I can’t read books about war; if I do, I have nightmares for days. However, this book did not cause me to see any bad dreams. It just left a deep sadness in me because Seethaler writes in such a way that even the most horrible things are readable. Such a powerful and beautiful book. Enjoy!
About the book: The Tobacconist
When seventeen-year-old Franz exchanges his home in the idyllic beauty of the Austrian lake district for the bustle of Vienna, his homesickness quickly dissolves amidst the thrum of the city. In his role as apprentice to the elderly tobacconist Otto Trsnyek, he will soon be supplying the great and good of Vienna with their newspapers and cigarettes. Among the regulars is a Professor Freud, whose predilection for cigars and occasional willingness to dispense romantic advice will forge a bond between him and young Franz. It is 1937. In a matter of months Germany will annex Austria and the storm that has been threatening to engulf the little tobacconist will descend, leaving the lives of Franz, Otto and Professor Freud irredeemably changed…
About the author: Robert Seethaler
Robert Seethaler is an Austrian living in Berlin and is the author of four previous novels. A Whole Life is his first work to be translated into English and is already a German bestseller, selling over 100,000 copies. The book has been translated from its original German by Charlotte Collins.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: