Cover image for Lost
Treichel, Hans Ulrich, 1952-
Uniform Title:
Verlorene. English
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Pantheon Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
136 pages ; 20 cm
Added Author:
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As an ordinary German family flees advancing Russian troops in 1945, they leave behind their first son, Arnold, a loss that has a profound impact on their younger son's life as his parents become obsessed with finding their lost child.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

A missing child casts a long shadow over his younger brother's existence in this slim, astringent first novel by German poet and professor Treichel, enthusiastically received upon its German publication in 1998. Thrust into a stranger's arms in a moment of terror and confusion during the Russian advance on Germany during WWII, baby Arnold disappears without a trace. His petit bourgeois mother and father never quite recover from the loss, though they make a new life for themselves in a small town in Westphalia and have another son. Stifled by his brother's ghostly presence ("my undead brother had the leading role in the family and had assigned me a supporting part"), this unnamed second child, the book's young narrator, is dragged unwillingly into his parents' all-encompassing search for Arnold. The search narrows to focus on "foundling 2307" in a Red Cross facility, who is reported to bear an almost exact resemblance to the narrator. But before foundling 2307 can be viewed in person, a prior relationship must be indicated, and a bureaucratic odyssey of blood tests, fingerprinting, cranial comparisons and official reports ensues. The narrator, caught between his distraught mother and his irritable father, a work-obsessed meat and sausage wholesaler, rebels silently, unmoved even when his father suffers a fatal heart attack upon returning from a final series of tests to discover that his cold-storage shed has been ransacked. The deadpan humor of the boy's observations and the absurdist quality of the proceedings compete evocatively with the novel's real traumas, and the final scene, which abruptly turns the emotional tables, casts new light on all that has gone before. Treichel's finely tuned prose moves at high velocity in a continuous text virtually bare of paragraphs and chapters. It is well served by Janeway's English translation, as the novel ticks from beginning to end like expert, ominous clockwork, measuring out blackly comedic alienation against the bleak backdrop of postwar Germany. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A poet and essayist in his native Germany, Treichel makes his fiction debut with the story of a boy coming of age in the shadow of his missing brother. The boy's parents never get over the loss of their older son, whom they last saw while fleeing from the Russian army in 1945. Years later, they still yearn to find him. What makes this novel especially interesting is that the sentences remain expressive despite the sometimes exaggerated directness. In addition, there is virtually no dialog. This strategy emphasizes the identity of the little boy, who narrates the story, while casting the other characters as a collective personality. The boy's dark humor and ingenuous understanding of the situation are engaging, but the deliberately slow progress of the plot makes you anticipate a big finale that doesn't arrive. What you get instead is a paradoxical conclusion, clarifying some seemingly unimportant events in the novel, that makes sense for the little boy if not for the other characters. This kind of "sober" narrative will surely get critical acclaim in academia, but it is also recommended to anyone attracted to the theme of the fragile nature of the human mind.ÄMirela Roncevic, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



My brother squatted on a white blanket and laughed into the camera. That was during the war, my mother said, the last year of the war, at home. Home was the East, and my mother had been born in the East. As my mother spoke the words "at home" she began to cry, as she so often did when the subject of my brother came up. His name was Arnold, like my father's. Arnold was a happy child, said my mother, looking at the photograph. She didn't say any more, and I didn't say anything either, and looked at Arnold squatting on a white blanket and being happy. I don't know what was making him happy, it was the war after all, and besides that he was in the East, and he was still happy. I envied him his happiness, I envied him the white blanket, and I envied him his place in the photo album, too. Arnold was right at the front of the album, ahead even of my parents' wedding pictures and the portraits of the grandparents, while I was way at the back. And Arnold's picture was quite big, while most of the photos I was in were small, not to say tiny. Snapshots taken by my parents with what they called a Box Brownie, and apparently this box thing could only make little tiny photos. You had to look at the photos with me in them very carefully to recognize anything at all. For example, one of these tiny snapshots was of a pool with several children in it, and one of them was me. All you could see of me was my head, because I didn't know how to swim then, and I was sitting in the water, which came up almost to my chin. And my head was partly hidden by a child standing in the water in front of me, so that the minuscule photo with me in it only showed part of my head right above the surface of the water. And what's more there was a shadow on the visible part of my head which was probably made by the child standing in front of me, so that the only bit of me you could really see was my right eye. While my brother Arnold looked not just happy but important even when he was a baby, in most of the photos from my childhood I am either only partly visible or sometimes not really visible at all. One of the times I was not really visible at all was in the photo of my christening. My mother held a white cushion on her arm, with a white coverlet over it. Under the coverlet was me, which you could tell because it had been pushed aside at the bottom of the cushion and the toes of a baby foot were peeking out. All subsequent photos taken of me in my childhood continued this tradition, one way or the other, except that in later photos the foot was replaced by a right arm, or half a profile, or an eye, as in the picture from the swimming pool. I would have accepted my truncated self in the family album, if my mother hadn't made a habit of reaching for the album to show me the pictures in it. Every time, the little tiny Box Brownie photos that showed me or rather various parts of me were leafed through hastily, while the photo of Arnold, which seemed life-size to me, was the object of endless contemplation. As a result I usually sat next to my mother on the sofa looking as miserable as I felt, and staring at cheerful and un-miserable Arnold, as my mother got more and more upset. I was still a small child when I became accustomed to my mother's tears, and I didn't spend any time wondering why Arnold's face made her cry so often. And the fact that although Arnold was my brother, I had never seen him in the flesh, didn't bother me in those first years, particularly because I was quite happy not having to share my room with him. At some point my mother explained what had happened to Arnold, inasmuch as she told me he had starved to death during their flight from the Russians. "Starved," said my mother, "starved in my arms." Because she herself had been more or less starving during the long trek from the East to the West, and she had no milk to feed the baby, and nothing else besides. When I asked if nobody else had had milk for the baby either, she said nothing, nor did she answer all my other, more detailed questions about the flight and my brother starving. So Arnold was dead, which was certainly very sad, but it made it easier for me to deal with his photo. Happy, easygoing Arnold even struck a chord in me, and I was proud to have a brother who was dead and still looked so happy and easygoing. I mourned Arnold and was proud of him, and I shared my room with him and wished him all the milk in the world. I had a dead brother and felt I had been singled out by fate. None of my playmates had a dead brother, let alone one who'd starved to death while fleeing the Russians. Excerpted from Lost: A Novel by Hans-Ulrich Treichel All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.