Reading & Discussion Martin Mosebach


Goethe-Institut New York

Winner of Germany’s most prestigious literary award, the Georg Büchner Prize, in 2007, Martin Mosebach’s critically acclaimed novels have not been available in English in the past. In the US, Mosebach is still best known for his controversial essays on the Catholic Church and the reintroduction of the Latin liturgy (The Heresy of Formlessness, 2006). To mark the publication of his novel What Was Before in English translation (Seagull Books, Kolkata 2014), the author will be in conversation with New York-based editor and writer Eric Banks.
Hailed in Germany as the first great social novel of the twenty-first century, What Was Before is an Elective Affinities for our time. It opens with a young couple enjoying a moment of carefree intimacy. Then the woman, turning slightly more serious, asks her lover that fateful question, one that sounds so innocent but carries toxic seeds of jealousy: What was your life like before you met me? The answer grows into an entire book, an elaborate house of cards, filled with intrigue, sex, betrayal, exotic birds, and far-flung locations. Set against the backdrop of Frankfurt’s affluent suburbs, this elliptical tale of coincidence and necessity unfolds through a series of masterly constructed vignettes, which gradually come together to form a scintillating portrait of the funny, tender, and destructive guises that love between two people can assume and the effect it has on everyone around them.
The English translation of What was Before was done by the 2011 Gutekunst Prize winner, Kári Driscoll, and funded by the Goethe-Institut India.The book is available for download in the Goethe-Institut's eLibrary.

Martin Mosebach was born in 1951 and lives in his home town Frankfurt. Besides the 2007 Büchner Prize, other awards include the 2002 Heinrich von Kleist Prize and the 2013 Literary Prize of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Mosebach’s work is published by Hanser, most recently Als das Reisen noch geholfen hat (2011) and Das Blutbuchenfest (2014). Mosebach is a member of P.E.N. Germany.
Eric Banks, director of the New York Institute for the Humanities, was formerly senior editor of Artforum. Banks relaunched Bookforum in 2003 and served as the publication’s editor in chief until 2008. From 2011 to 2013, he served as president of the National Book Critics Circle and is a two-term member of the NBCC board of directors.
"In What Was Before, Mosebach offers a glittering wealth of intellectual as well as sensual pleasure: social satire at its best." (World Literature Today)
“Mosebach's writing is florid, tinged with a biting wit.” (Publishers Weekly)