Norbert Zähringer was born in Stuttgart in 1967 and grew up in Wiesbaden. His 2001 novel So (2001) was praised as “one of the funniest and most bizarre and absurd debuts in recent years” (Süddeutsche Zeitung) and “entertaining, self-assured and opulent literature” (Die Welt). His novel While I Was Sleeping was published in 2006, One of Many in 2009. He lives with his family in Berlin.
WHERE WE WERE
A modern-day Dickens-esque story about an orphan who becomes a tech millionaire
It’s the night of July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong sets foot on the Moon. Millions around the world are glued to their TV sets while a few others are busy exploiting this global media event for their own ends. Like Martha Rohn, a murderer who escapes from a women’s prison on that eerily quiet night. Is it a coincidence that her son Hardy runs away from his children’s home – where he was sent after his mother’s conviction and is known as “Orphan 13”? He knows nothing about her, not even if she’s alive. Then a married couple take Hardy in; growing up, he dreams of one day becoming an astronaut. Years later, in America, where the internet has made him rich, his dream is within his grasp.
Where We Were is a novel of immense scope whose expansive narrative unfolds across an entire century. Vivid and inventive, this story is an exposition of expertly deployed narrative pacing, at times pushing us relentlessly forward at breakneck speed before switching effortlessly to slower, more reflective passages.
This expansive tableau gracefully melds disparate temporal eras, nations and historic detail with an engrossing array of individuals and their fates; the narrative oscillates between a frenetic race from one cliff-hanger to the next and subtle, gentler passages of remarkable sensitivity. This rich, spellbinding novel explores experiences of fleeing, the tumultuous effects of coincidence as well as identity, belonging and foreignness – its locus all the while on the question: Where were we, and where will we be?