From the internationally bestselling author of The Club comes a gripping historical novel of love and betrayal, set in wartime Berlin
In 1942, Friedrich, an even-keeled but unworldly young man, arrives in Berlin from bucolic Switzerland with dreams of becoming an artist. At a life drawing class, he is hypnotized by the beautiful model, Kristin, who soon becomes his energetic yet enigmatic guide to the bustling and cosmopolitan city. Kristin teaches the naiÌ?ve Friedrich how to take care of himself in a city filled with danger, and brings him to an underground jazz club where they drink cognac, dance, and kiss. The war feelsfar away to Friedrich as he falls in love with Kristin, the pair cocooned inside their palatial rooms at the Grand Hotel, where even Champagne and fresh fruit can be obtained thanks to the black market. But as the months pass, the mood in the city darkens yet further, with the Nazi Party tightening their hold on everyday life of all Berliners, terrorizing anyone who might be disloyal to the Reich. Kristin’s loyalties are unclear, and she is not everything she seems, as his realizes when one frightening day she comes back to Friedrich’s hotel suite in tears, battered and bruised. She tells him an astonishing secret: that her real name is Stella, and that she is Jewish, passing for Aryan. Fritz comforts her, but he soon realizes that Stella’s control of the situation is rapidly slipping out of her grasp, and that the Gestapo have an impossible power over her.
As Friedrich confronts Stella’s unimaginable choices, he finds himself woefully unprepared for the history he is living through. Based in part on a real historical character,Stella sets a tortured love story against the backdrop of wartime Berlin, and powerfully explores questions of naiveteÌ, young love, betrayal, and the horrors of history.
Liesl Schillinger is a literary critic, writer, and translator, and teaches journalism and criticism at the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts of the New School for Social Research in New York City. She is the translator of the #1 international bestsellerThe Psychology of Stupidity, and has translated novels by Alexandre Dumas fils, NataÅ¡a DragnicÌ, InÃ¨s Cagnati, and Lorenza Pieri. She is the author ofWordbirds: An Irreverent Lexicon for the 21st Century. In 2017, she was named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters of France.
“Told in sparse, tight prose . . . An unsettling, atmospheric read.”—Antonia Senior,Times (UK)
“Serves as a reminder of the depths of depravity and evil of the Holocaust.”—Gordon Arnold,Winnipeg Free Press
“Spare, affecting . . . WuÌ?rger skillfully intertwines fact and fiction . . . Subtle, thought-provoking.”—Publishers Weekly
“A powerful, visceral portrait of individuals caught up in a pivotal year during Nazi rule.”—Booklist
“Takis WÃ¼rger is someone out of the ordinary and this book is like him: powerful, strong, painful.Stella is a book from which we do not emerge unscathed and in which he explores the depths of the human soul. I stayed in this book for a long time after turning the final page. WÃ¼rger is surely one of the most important writers of our generation.”—JoÃ«l Dicker,New York Times-bestselling author ofThe Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair
“With its deceptively simple yet quietly elegant style,Stella takes us into a world which we assume perhaps that we know, the Berlin of the war years. To our surprise, however, we discover that we do not know it at all. Here is a love story set among jazz clubs and artist studios yet inevitably enacted in the shadow of the Gestapo. It’s a story which shows us something new about a nightmare which is always in danger of seeming too familiar.”—Lawrence Osborne, author ofThe Glass Kingdom
“I was somewhat skeptical when I began this book, but it gripped and surprised me, and by the end I was full of admiration.”—Daniel Kehlmann, International Booker Prize-shortlisted author ofTyll
“For those who wish to find in history a key to our absolutist present.”—Il Giornale (Italy)
“Stella is a book you can hardly put down. You will read it in just a few hours, whatever you might have planned . . . It has a style which in a certain way echoes Hemingway’s war reporting—you might call it ‘melancholy heroism.’ But it reads very well, you can’t say otherwise.”—Die Welt (Germany)
“WÃ¼rger writes in a quiet, authentic style; he writes without mercy but never without empathy, never in a way that is contrived or lurid.”—JÃ¼dische Allgemeine (Germany)
“WÃ¼rger avoids any hint of pathos, writing instead in clearly chiseled, artfully sparse sentences . . . It is the escalating state of emergency that explains everything in this slimmed down, concise novel.”—Abendzeitung MÃ¼nchen (Germany)
“Stella shows how war and love sometimes bring up the worst in a human being, and how much pain love can cause.”—Metro (Netherlands)
Praise forThe Club:
“The gritty subject matter is juxtaposed against a prose style we tend to associate with a different kind of novel—it reads more like a coming-of-age story than a thriller. WÃ¼rger’s writing is mannered; it often has an otherworldly, fable-like quality.”—Adelle Waldman,New York Times Book Review
“WÃ¼rger’s debut was a bestseller in his native Germany. Its universal themes, brilliantly depicted world and taut storytelling constitute a recipe for further success . . .The Club starts out as a poignant coming-of-age tale and then morphs into an intelligent, fast-paced thriller that scrutinizes class divides and gender imbalance . . . WÃ¼rger serves up visceral thrills with boxing bouts. But he delivers real knockout blows as Hans goes deeper undercover and learns ‘what humans are at heart: predators.’”—Malcolm Forbes,Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A timely, beautifully paced novel about class and prestige in the #MeToo era . . . In a campus novel that echoes the detective structure of Donna Tartt’sThe Secret History, WÃ¼rger cycles between each character’s voice to brilliantly evoke the medieval unreality of Cambridge and the almost comical wealth of the students. There is much to dissect in this concise and dramatic tale.”—Booklist
“A young man infiltrates a secret university club and discovers a dangerous secret . . . The club is full of rich, privileged young men well-versed in secrets, debauchery, and something far more sinister . . . The novel’s complicated ending touches on the problem of justice and redemption: who gets it, who deserves it, and its human cost. A sparse, cutting debut in which violence begets violence begets healing.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Distinguished German journalist WÃ¼rger, who broke some bones boxing for a year at Cambridge, offers a powerful and provoking story.”—Library Journal
“A cunning, sinuous tale, Takis WÃ¼rger’sThe Club is so wildly entertaining that, at first, it’s easy to miss its deeper mysteries. But, as it unfolds, brutal truths about class and gender and violence emerge, take hold and shudder through the novel’s final pages.”—Megan Abbott, best-selling author ofGive Me Your Hand andYou Will Know Me
“The Club, Takis WÃ¼rger’s exquisite debut, is a novel as rare as a phoenix, a story both beautifully told and white-knuckle thrilling. A tale of pain, privilege and revenge,The Club reads like something both mythical and modern, a fable whose pages demand to be turned.”—Christopher J. Yates, author ofBlack Chalk andGrist Mill Road
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