Translated from by

Published: July 5th, 2022





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Book Description

Shrouded in a thick cloud of cigar smoke, Hermann Arbogast Brenner, scion of an old and famous cigar dynasty, needs to settle his affairs, codifying his forty-six years of life, in a Proustian attempt to conjure the wounds, joys, and sensations of his childhood in the rolling countryside of the Aargau region of Switzerland. Estranged from his wife and two children, he decides there is no point in squirreling away his fortune, so he buys himself a Ferrari 328 GTS and drives around sharing cigars with his few remaining friends. In this roman à clef, writing and smoking become intertwined through the act of remembering, as Brenner, a fallible, wounded, yet lovable antihero, searches for epiphany, to unearth memories just out of reach.

In the guise of his narrator, Hermann Arbogast Brenner, Burger, the cigar lover, composes an autobiography of ashes: part wish-fulfillment, part settling of accounts, with the languid, bitter feel of a last smoke before an execution . . . rife with dialect and ornate, Latinate turns of phrase that possess rare evocative power.
Uwe Schütte, Asymptote

There is, for the reader, a compelling claustrophobia in being immersed so thoroughly in such a warped subjectivity. It is this, ultimately, that Brenner shares with the best of Thomas Bernhard’s work: not merely the sheer bravura of a three-page sentence, but how such sentences capture the swerving freneticism and unreality of a mind in the act of consuming itself . . . Masterful and devastating . . .
Charlie Lee, The Nation

Burger’s style [is] ... Proustian, the prose circling around childhood memories in long, cascading sentences that ‘annihilate space and time’ like the heady tobacco smoke that swirls around Brenner’s head.
Ben Hutchinson, Literary Review

A Magic Mountain in the Stumpenland… What the Madeleine was for Proust, the cigar is for Hermann Arbogast Brenner.
Der Spiegel

A ringmaster at the edge of the abyss.
Marcel Reich-Ranicki

In a mocking celebration of Marcel Proust and his madeleine cookie-triggered involuntary memory, Brenner chooses which cigar to smoke in the hope of conjuring a particular event . . . The memories conjured unfold similarly to how the cigar being smoked develops its “pneuma,” an Ancient Greek word for breath . . . The translation is excellent . . . Complicated but rewarding (just like a fine cigar).
Erika Harlitz Kern, Foreword Reviews

A first-class book . . . thoroughly enjoyable . . . witty, cynical, mocking but about a man who by all normal accounts could be considered an abject failure, who is dying and knows he is dying, yet still manages to carry on cheerfully with the one thing that matters to him in life – a good smoke.
The Modern Novel

[Burger was] a literary and cultural critic with virtually all of Western literature at his fingertips, enabling his characteristic, wide-ranging, ubiquitous intertextuality . . . His process is reminiscent of Homer’s famous catalogues, which bring action to a standstill only to make it come yet more alive and immediate through enumeration that fixes the setting with vivid immediacy.
Vincent Kling, Hopscotch