“Raphaela Edelbauer’s impressive debut novel is a subtle allegory of historical memory and collective guilt, combining a dreamy, gothic strangeness …”—The Guardian
“A village that officially does not exist and that seems to be disappearing more and more … Anyone who embarks on this trip is safely guided by Edelbauer—on a fine line between madness and adventure.”—Christina Risken, Buchhandlung Krüger
A town that doesn’t want to be found. A countess who rules over the memories of an entire community. A hole in the earth that threatens to drag them all into its depths.
When her parents die in a car accident, the highly talented physicist Ruth Schwarz is confronted with an almost intractable problem. Her parents’ will calls for them to be buried in their childhood home—but for strangers, Gross-Einland is a village that remains stubbornly hidden from view.
When Ruth finally finds her way there, she makes a disturbing discovery: beneath the town lies a vast cavern that seems to exert a strange control over the lives of the villagers. There are hidden clues about the hole everywhere, but nobody wants to talk about it—not even when it becomes clear that the stability of the entire town is in jeopardy. Is this silence controlled by the charming countess who rules the community? And what role does Ruth’s family history, a history she is only just beginning to uncover, have to play?
The more questions Ruth asks, the more vehement the resistance she encounters from the residents. But as she continues to dig deeper, she comes to realize that the key to deciphering the mysterious codes of the people of Gross-Einland can only lie in the history of the hole.
In the literary tradition of Thomas Bernhard and Elfriede Jelinek, Raphaela Edelbauer weaves the complexities of small-town social structures into an opaque dream fabric that is frighteningly true to life, and in the process she turns us towards the abject horror that lies beneath repressed memory. The Liquid Land is a dangerous novel, at once glittering nightmare and dark reality, from an extraordinary new literary voice.
“Ably translated from the German by Jen Calleja, Raphaela Edelbauer’s impressive debut novel is a subtle allegory of historical memory and collective guilt, combining a dreamy, gothic strangeness with whimsical humor and an element of farce … The novel’s deft blend of registers—at once uncannily foreboding and drily comic—makes for an absorbing and memorable tale.”
Houman Barekat, The Guardian
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“The Liquid Land was a fun and fascinating read … This is a quirky tale that is sure to please readers of contemporary fiction looking for something a little different, since it combines family drama with mystery/investigation and a touch of magical realism.”
Nicki J. Markus/Asta Idonea, author of Fire Up My Heart and Northern Lights
“Ruth Schwartz, a physicist, tries to fulfil her parents' final wishes: burying them in their ancestral home of Greater Einland, a small town in Austria that does not show up in any municipal record … This is an eerie, electric novel about individual trauma, collective memory, and the way the land holds onto atrocity.”
Rachel Schneck, Harvard Book Store
“Clever and compelling.”
Dani Garavelli, The Big Issue
“For a novel meticulously built on a series of familiar, strange, and compelling conceptual metaphors, The Liquid Land isn't a dense or overly taxing read—just the opposite, in fact. Ruth's brief meditations on the nature of time and space at the beginning of the novel become our entry-point into the first of many motifs. Edelbauer spends the rest of the book unpicking: the fluidity of time and space in our social lives, the implications of ecological collapse, the permeability of natural and built worlds, and our attempt to make sense of the past, and more importantly, come to terms with it. With The Liquid Land, Raphaela Edelbauer has written a book that is oblique, familiar, and completely new. It's a fascinating, heady combination.”
Khalid Warsame, ABC Arts
“Edelbauer conjures a gut-level queasiness around questions of participation in and propagation of historical lies in a country with a silenced history of violence. This novel becomes a study of the deformations that such silences work upon citizens and indeed on physical landscapes. It’s a visceral wrestle with the presence of the past.”
Bernard Caleo, Readings
“An unfathomable and imaginative parable about Austria and how it dealt with its National Socialist past … philosophical and fantastic.”
Florian Baranyi, ORF
“Edelbauer crosses borders and advances into unexplored areas of literature.”
2017 Rauriser Literature Prize jury citation
“A village that officially does not exist and that seems to be disappearing more and more … Anyone who embarks on this trip is safely guided by Edelbauer—on a fine line between madness and adventure.”
Christina Risken, Buchhandlung Krüger
“From the first page of this beguilingly strange, darkly comic novel, we are plunged into a destabilised realm of fiction where the laws of rationality, physics, and linear duration no longer seem to apply … At times, the novel, as translated into English by Jen Calleja, reads like a postmodern détournement of classic German texts like The Castle and The Magic Mountain, where a baffled protagonist is drawn into an environment whose shadowy, labile qualities become inseparable from their own inner disorder.”
World Literature Today
“The Liquid Land is a daring and surreal nightmare that lingers long after you turn the final page … The Liquid Land is a powerful sociological and philosophical reflection on society and government.”
Samuel Bernard Williams, Good Reading, starred review
“A dark and deliciously unique novel … An uncanny page-turner, The Liquid Land pits family drama and an eerie almost Hot Fuzz-like town against darker presences—whether physical, emotional, or historical. The end result is an engaging and thought-provoking piece of contemporary fiction.”
Jodie Sloan, The AU Review, starred review
“The Liquid Land is a tale that nods to the traditions of magical realism while also exploring the threat of a very real past. On one level, it deals with a practical problem that falls to the protagonist, Ruth. But in searching for the solution—a town that has written itself off the map—she uncovers a looming danger that threatens to engulf the place. An intoxicating adventure unfolds from this unique premise.”
“Fascinating and richly imaginative.”
Eric Karl Anderson, Lonesome Reader
Praise for Raphaela Edelbauer:
“Edelbauer’s essays are huge and impossible, utopian and full of fantastical realisms, brilliant and unwieldy. Vulcanoid salvos, cold and hard, which hit the reader with brute force.”
Marietta Böning, Magazine of the Literaturhaus Wien