When seventeen-year-old Franz exchanges his home in the idyllic beauty of the Austrian lake district for the bustle of Vienna, his homesickness quickly dissolves amidst the thrum of the city. In his role as apprentice to the elderly tobacconist Otto Trsnyek, he will soon be supplying the great and good of Vienna with their newspapers and cigarettes. Among the regulars is a Professor Freud, whose predilection for cigars and occasional willingness to dispense romantic advice will forge a bond between him and young Franz.
It is 1937. In a matter of months Germany will annex Austria and the storm that has been threatening to engulf the little tobacconist will descend, leaving the lives of Franz, Otto and Professor Freud irredeemably changed.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
In this coming-of-age novel the Austrian author Robert Seethaler tells the story of 17-year-old Frans Huchel, who is sent to Vienna by his mother to become the apprentice to an old tobacconist. It is 1937 and the eve of Germany’s annexing of Austria, when the reader follows the young naïve protagonist trying to come to terms with city life, first love and the rising Nazi regime. And, by the way, even Sigmund Freud plays a role…. In simple, unpretentious prose, Seethaler unfolds a tragic comedy, that for nearly all ends up in catastrophe.