Cover image for The wall : a novel
The wall : a novel
Adler, H. G., author.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Unsichtbare Wand. English
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [2014]
Physical Description:
xix, 630 pages ; 24 cm
"Told in a ... stream-of-consciousness style reminiscent of our finest modernist writers, The Wall is the story of Arthur Landau, a Holocaust survivor struggling to leave behind the horrors of the past and find a foothold in the present. After the war, Arthur returns to Prague in the hope of finding his parents, works in a museum that collects Jewish artifacts, and eventually crosses the border, leaving his homeland and friends for good. Despite the loss of his first wife to the camps, the love of his second wife Johanna and their two children anchors him amid the chaotic and competitive world of postwar exiles living in London"--
General Note:
Translation of: Die unsichtbare Wand.
Translator's Note -- Introduction by Peter Filkins -- The Wall -- List of Characters -- Principal Events.
Added Author:
Format :


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Material Type
Home Location
Central Library FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library

On Order




Compared by critics to Kafka, Joyce, and Musil, H. G. Adler is becoming recognized as one of the towering figures of twentieth-century fiction. Nobel Prize winner Elias Canetti wrote that "Adler has restored hope to modern literature," and the first two novels rediscovered after his death, Panorama and The Journey, were acclaimed as "modernist masterpieces" by The New Yorker . Now his magnum opus, The Wall, the final installment of Adler's Shoah trilogy and his crowning achievement as a novelist, is available for the first time in English.
Drawing upon Adler's own experiences in the Holocaust and his postwar life, The Wall , like the other works in the trilogy, nonetheless avoids detailed historical specifics. The novel tells the story of Arthur Landau, survivor of a wartime atrocity, a man struggling with his nightmares and his memories of the past as he strives to forge a new life for himself. Haunted by the death of his wife, Franziska, he returns to the city of his youth and receives confirmation of his parents' fates, then crosses the border and leaves his homeland for good.
Embarking on a life of exile, he continues searching for his place within the world. He attempts to publish his study of the victims of the war, yet he is treated with curiosity, competitiveness, and contempt by fellow intellectuals who escaped the conflict unscathed. Afflicted with survivor's guilt, Arthur tries to leave behind the horrors of the past and find a foothold in the present. Ultimately, it is the love of his second wife, Johanna, and his two children that allows him to reaffirm his humanity while remembering all he's left behind.
The Wall is a magnificent epic of survival and redemption, powerfully told through stream of consciousness and suffused with daydream, fantasy, memory, nightmare, and pure imagination. More than a portrait of a Holocaust survivor's journey, it is a universal novel about recovering from the traumas of the past and finding a way to live again.

Praise for The Wall
"[A] majestic novel . . . Adler's prose is tidal, surge after narrative surge rushing forward and then enigmatically receding, the moment displaced by memory, and memory by introspective soliloquy." --Cynthia Ozick, The New York Times Book Review

"A towering meditation on the self and spirit . . . The writing is sonorous and so entirely devastating that the reader is compelled to pore over every word." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Masterful and utterly unique." --The Jerusalem Post
"Haunting and utterly heart-wrenching . . . a literary masterpiece." --Historical Novels Review
"An epic novel . . . an unforgettable portrait." --The Jewish Week

"[A] pensive portrait of a man struggling to find a place in the world after enduring transformative calamity . . . an eloquent record of suffering--and perhaps of redemption as well." -- Kirkus Reviews
Praise for H. G. Adler's novels The Journey and Panorama, translated by Peter Filkins
"Modernist masterpieces worthy of comparison to those of Kafka or Musil." -- The New Yorker
"Haunting . . . as remarkable for its literary experimentation as for its historical testimony." --San Francisco Chronicle , on Panorama

Author Notes

H. G. Adler was the author of twenty-six books of fiction, poetry, philosophy, and history. A survivor of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, Adler later settled in England and began writing novels about his experience. Having worked as a freelance writer and scholar throughout his life, Adler died in London in 1988.
Peter Filkins is an acclaimed translator and poet and the recipient of a Berlin Prize fellowship in 2005 from the American Academy in Berlin, among other honors. He teaches writing and literature at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and translation at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This is Adler's third (posthumous) and final work in the Shoah trilogy (after The Journey and Panorama), one of the very few works of Holocaust fiction written by a survivor. The author, once a prisoner at Theresienstadt and three other concentration camps, crafted this modernist homage to his despair over the course of many years; it was first published in 1989. His protagonist, Arthur-most certainly Adler himself-is an exile in the "Metropolis," a thinly disguised London. He lives a bemused existence with his second wife, Joanna, and their two children, going through the motions of being a father, and indeed of being human. He has suffered something so dreadful that it is almost impossible to articulate, but it seems that his first wife perished in the war, as did his parents. In his dreams, which reflect in an absurdist way the real horror he faced, he returns to his father's haberdashery in Prague; sometimes his parents are still alive and sometimes they die before his very eyes. Neighbors recognize and pity Arthur, knowing more than he about the fate of his family. He reminisces or dreams about being taken in by friends he does not recollect, of interacting with scholarly colleagues in London, and of meeting his beloved Joanna, on whom he relies utterly as his only link to the world in which he now finds himself adrift. He also imagines witnessing his own death. The symbolic wall of the title is purported to be the past, but it is much more: an existential barrier made of pain that separates him from the rest of humanity. The past and the present are indistinguishable in the stream of Adler's consciousness, but this distracts very little from the story. The writing is sonorous and so entirely devastating that the reader is compelled to pore over every word. One cannot begin to share this author's anguish, but can participate in not allowing it to be forgotten. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

In what is now an extensive literature on the Holocaust, certain writers and their work have achieved iconic status, Adler among them. He was born in Prague and later interned in several camps during World War II, including Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. Having lost his wife and many members of his family before war's end, he eventually settled in London and wrote numerous books of fiction, philosophy, and history, most notably his "Shoah" trilogy, composed between 1948 and 1956. In this final volume in the trilogy (which includes Panorama and The Journey), the author continues drawing on his own experiences to recount the fictional life of survivor Arthur Landau, which unfolds in a metropolis apparently meant to mirror London and Prague. After war, exile, and intellectual isolation, Landau is finally able to achieve a measure of peace through love of his second wife and children. VERDICT In the introduction, masterly translator Filkins best characterizes the work by saying, "The novel's nonlinear plot at times make[s] it difficult to know just what is going on or how we end up in a certain locale or set of circumstances." This stream-of-consciousness style lends itself to a wordiness that will slow down the narrative considerably for some readers. Best recommended for large collections of literary treatments of the Holocaust and the lives of survivors. [See Prepub Alert, 6/8/14.]-Edward B. Cone, New York (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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