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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


On a Day Like This

Peter Stamm

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase On a Day Like This

Title: On a Day Like This
Author: Peter Stamm
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 229 pages
Original in: German
Availability: On a Day Like This - US
On a Day Like This - UK
On a Day Like This - Canada
On a Day Like This - India
Un jour comme celui-ci - France
An einem Tag wie diesem - Deutschland
Un giorno come questo - Italia
Tal día como hoy - España
  • German title: An einem Tag wie diesem
  • Translated by Michael Hofmann

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Our Assessment:

B+ : well-presented variation on the mid-life crisis story

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 29/7/2006 Felicitas von Lovenberg
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 8/7/2006 Roman Bucheli
The NY Rev. of Books . 14/7/2011 Tim Parks
Die Welt . 8/7/2006 Rainer Moritz

  From the Reviews:
  • "Vom Versuch eines Mannes, sich zur Teilnahme an der eigenen Existenz zu bewegen, erzählt Peter Stamm in seinem neuen Roman An einem Tag wie diesem. (...) Der Teilnahmslosigkeit seines Protagonisten und des lakonischen, kunstvoll schlichten Erzähltons, der impassibilité stehen ein unbedingter Formwille und ein Stilbewußtsein gegenüber, die in der jüngeren deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur ihresgleichen suchen. (...) An einem Tag wie diesem ist ein leicht zu lesender, doch schwer zu verkraftender Roman. Man sollte ihn lesen. Noch heute." - Felicitas von Lovenberg, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Peter Stamm ist ein Erzähler, der sprachliche Mittel mit größter Präzision einzusetzen versteht und zu einem Ton gefunden hat, der unverwechselbar in den Ohren klingt. Nicht mehr als 200 Seiten umfaßt dieser Roman, und doch ist er ein intelligent vernetztes Werk voller motivischer Anspielungen und Querverbindungen. (...) Peter Stamms Kunst besteht darin, daß er Kleinigkeit an Kleinigkeit, Beobachtung an Beobachtung reiht, ohne diese Szenen einer unspektakulären Biographie mit unangemessener Bedeutsamkeit zu befrachten." - Rainer Moritz, Die Welt

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Andreas is a teacher in Paris, just reaching forty. Originally from Switzerland, he's wound up teaching German in a French high school. He leads a pretty isolated life -- even after ten years in the same building, he hardly knows any of his neighbours. He does have convenient arrangements with two women for a bit of female company and sex, but doesn't seem interested in any sort of more committed relationship. The man he'd describe as his closest friend, Jean-Marc, a fellow teacher, is someone he has little in common with -- or seems to care for much.
       Puttering along like this, several things finally get him thinking -- and acting. For one, he comes across a text meant for students called Love without Borders, and finds that the story in it closely resembles that of his own lost -- and one great ? -- love. As a youth he had fallen in love with Fabienne, but never really pushed hard enough to see if she might reciprocate his feelings: theirs was "a love story that had never quite happened". Instead, it was the three of them, Andreas, Fabienne, and Manuel that were a group of friends -- and eventually it was her and Manuel that became involved, and ultimately married.
       Then there's a letter Andreas receives from his brother, notifying him that he also has to give permission for the clearing of their parents' grave (apparently normal practice there, after twenty years), yet another reminder of the past, and mortality.
       And then there's that persistent cough of his .....
       A CAT-scan is inconclusive, so they schedule a biopsy; when it's time to be confronted with the diagnosis he goes to the hospital, but then runs out before he learns it. He fools himself into believing: "As long as he didn't know anything, nothing could happen to him."
        It's a liberating decision for Andreas:

     His decision spurred him on. It was as though he had got back control over his own life, as though, maybe for the first time since going to Paris, he had his life in his hands again. He would heal himself of his past life, which hadn't been one.
       Combining mid-life crisis with all those reminders of mortality, Andreas tries to start over again, all in one go. He simply abandons his old life, quitting his job and selling his apartment. But, of course, he's not prepared for uncharted territory, and instead heads back home, needing to see Fabienne, needing to know: what if .....
       He has taken up with a much younger teacher-trainee from the school, Delphine, and he gets her to go along with him. She has different interests, but she's curiously devoted to him, while he seems ambivalent about their relationship. But then he seems generally ambivalent, unable to get emotionally deeply involved in anything or with anyone. There's Fabienne, of course, but what he clings to is that feeling of adolescent passion; reality, then, is so much more mundane. Still, it is meeting her again, revisiting that past and confronting the present, that is the only thing that can allow him to truly move on.
       Stamm's cool and almost understated style make for a solid read, even as his protagonist isn't a very sympathetic person. The juxtaposition of the do-it-my-way certainty that Andreas insists upon (even as he moves aimlessly, or on the spur of the moment), along with the much more deep-rooted and far-reaching uncertainty that, in fact, dominates his life makes for a neat sort of dramatic tension. It's no surprise that Andreas thinks he can find control over his life by not knowing whether he is, in fact, fatally ill. (Of course, he couldn't bear knowing whether or not Fabienne could be his so many years earlier either -- and look where that got him .....)
       On a Day Like This does echo Agnes in perhaps too many respects -- similar isolated protagonists, a written story that is exactly like reality, the dark shadow of mortality looming over all -- but Stamm does do these things well enough to make for a compelling read.

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On a Day Like This: Reviews: Peter Stamm: Other books by Peter Stamm under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • Pascal Mercier's Night Train to Lisbon -- another Swiss novel about a teacher who abruptly quits his job
  • See Index of German literature

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About the Author:

       Swiss author Peter Stamm was born in 1963.

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