‘O, it has happened little by little, as many things simply happen little by little, Mother said, and told us everything about Herr Veilchenfeld, as far as it was known to her.’
Germany, late 1930s. Walking into town on a hot summer evening, the elderly professor Herr Veilchenfeld encounters a group of local drunks. He is humiliated and assaulted; his hair is shorn. The police ‘don’t interfere in such minor matters’.
What happens to Veilchenfeld is recounted by the young son of the doctor who attends the professor. The boy observes, listens in to his parents’ conversations, and asks for ice creams. He cannot know the true import of the events he witnesses.
Veilchenfeld, first published in Germany 1986 and now translated into English for the first time, is a salutary masterpiece about the destructive effects of persecution not only for the victims, but for the community as a whole.
‘A quiet book that in uncanny ways makes the moral vacuum that it treats almost physically palpable to the reader.’
– Die Zeit
‘One of the best holocaust novels in postwar German literature.’
– Milena Ganeva, in Reference Guide to Holocaust Literature
‘The past in Gert Hofmann’s books is not dead. Indeed, it is not even past.’
– Lutz Hagestad, literaturkritik.de
Also published by CBe: Lichtenberg and the Little Flower Girl
‘Europe's belated answer to Lolita.’
– Gabriel Josipovici
‘Gert Hofmann's final book translated by his son is delightfully anarchic and imaginative in its exploration of an unlikely love found and lost.’
– Eileeen Battersby, Irish Times