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The Old King in His Exile
What makes us who we are? Arno Geiger's father was never an easy man to know and when he developed Alzheimer's, Arno realised he was not going to ask for help. 'As my father can no longer cross the bridge into my world, I have to go over to his.' So Arno sets out on a journey to get to know him at last. Born in 1926 in the Austrian Alps, into a farming family who had an orchard, kept three cows, and made schnapps in the cellar, his father was conscripted into World War II as a 'schoolboy soldier' - an experience he rarely spoke about, though it marked him. Striking up a new friendship, Arno walks with him in the village and the landscape they both grew up in and listens to his words, which are often full of unexpected poetry.Through his intelligent, moving and often funny account, we begin to see that whatever happens in old age, a human being retains their past and their character. Translated into nearly 30 languages, The Old King in His Exile will offer solace and insight to anyone coping with a loved one's aging.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
'A wise and beautiful story of dementia and a family learning how to love.' Sally Magnusson, author of Where Memories Go: Why Dementia Changes Everything --------- 'There are books that speak directly from one person to another. The Old King in His Exile is one of them. Every life is worth living, as Arno Geiger shows in his wise and deeply moving book about his father and Alzheimer's.' Robert Seethaler, author of A Whole Life --------- 'A beautiful, entirely unsentimental book describing his father's dementia ... a superbly written book.' Denis Scheck --------- 'Apart from the decline of the author's father and how a family does and doesn't cope with it, it's also about the decline of village life and about the profound impact of war on a place.' Martin Chalmers, translator and champion of German-language writing --------- 'A profound, distinctive and timeless investigation into what concerns every one of us: aging and illness, home and family. A meditation on the things we find hard to deal with. A great work of literature about what makes life worth living no matter what.' Felicitas von Lovenberg, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung --------- 'A book about the search for a lost world, a lost home and a character presumed lost, as well as about a rediscovered relationship. A powerful, grown-up, curious, and touchingly delightful book.' Elmar Krekeler, Die Welt --------- 'A magical work. True to life and yet effortlessly artful.' Meike Fessmann, Der Tagesspiegel -------- 'Arno Geiger's extraordinary skill as an author is crystal clear in this book. He demonstrates an astonishing degree of empathy for the life of another person. A love of the people about whom he writes, a love that doesn't blinker him but frees him to see what is essential.' Judith von Sternburg, Frankfurter Rundschau --------- 'Alzheimer's forces on people the most radical version of an experience we all share in a more diluted, manageable form: that the world changes, that the conditions we know disappear, that we have to keep up and find that sometimes easy, sometimes difficult. The person with dementia can't cope with the changes any more. The justified success of Geiger's book is in part because it lets people understand this better, and so they love it.' Martin Ebel, Tages-Anzeiger ---------- 'With humility and uncanny insight, Arno Geiger shines a pure and natural light upon a subject we too often shy away from, turning it into something very positive and uplifting. This book is a gift to all of us who struggle with life and death and all its jagged edges.' Ray Mattinson, Blackwell, Oxford --------- 'A moving and revealing depiction of the reality of dementia. Told tenderly with love and respect, it is a celebration of humanity in difficult times and a testament to the importance of understanding one another.' Claire Grint, Cogito Books, Hexham --------- 'Definitely a "one sitting" read. The book engages the reader and takes them into Arno and his father's world. Sad, happy, insightful and gripping, a story that many will recognise from their own experiences.' Alan Jessop, Compass Independent Publishing Services -------- 'A deeply affecting examination of the hope to be found amidst illness and loss. Geiger writes with clear eyes and an open heart.' Marion Rankine, Foyles Charing Cross Road, London --------- 'Geiger writes about family, old age and illness with elegant poignancy and the kind of wisdom that only comes from painful experience, but there is strength and hope here too. This is writing that warms your heart even as it breaks it.' Jenny Buckland, Heywood Hill Bookshop, London --------- 'I loved everything about The Old King in His Exile and read it in one sitting. A really moving (both sad and joyous) treat.' Richard Reynolds, Heffers Bookshop, Cambridge --------- 'A love letter from a son to his father, The Old King in His Exile completely avoids sentimentalism, yet is never lacking in humour and compassion. It made me realise that the sum of a life is the whole life and not just its ending.' Claire Harris, Lutyens & Rubinstein, London --------- 'Arno Geiger invites us to share in precious time spent with his father and it feels like an honour to do so. Always honest about the brutal realities of dementia, Geiger nevertheless looks for the man and not the illness. With prose so beautifully simple yet striking it begs you to read passages aloud, I doubt there is anybody who could read this book and not be deeply moved.' Danielle Culling, Mr B's Emporium, Bath --------- 'This book is startlingly unsentimental, and yet a painful and touchingly realised picture of dementia, and the way it alters relationships between the sufferer and the people closest to them. It is incredibly relatable and emotionally provocative, but it also becomes a more general meditation on life and the continuous process of ageing.' Lewis Wood, Topping & Co, St Andrew's