The World at My Back
Biblioasis International Translation Series
Published by: Biblioasis
Sales Date: 2023-05-02
Published: May 2023
Series: Biblioasis International Translation Series
Dimensions: 5.25 x 8.25
5.25 x 8.25 x 0.75 in
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"Books written out of great emotional distress are ... rarely great literature. Thomas Melle's [The World at My Back] is great literature because he pulls it off without a single false note."
—Deutschlandfunk (German National Radio)
A FINALIST FOR THE GERMAN BOOK PRIZE • TRANSLATED INTO EIGHTEEN LANGUAGES
Addicted to culture, author Thomas Melle has built up an impressive personal library. His heart is in these books, and he loves to feel them at his back, their promise and challenge, as he writes. But in the middle of a violent dissociative episode, when they become ballast to his increasingly manic self, he disperses almost overnight what had taken decades to gather. Nor is this all he loses: descending further into an incomprehensible madness, he loses friendships and his career as a novelist and celebrated playwright, but the most savage cruelty is that he no longer either knows or understands himself.
Vulnerable and claustrophobic, shattering and profoundly moving, Thomas Melle’s The World at My Back is a book dedicated to the impossibility of reclaiming what has been lost, its lines both a prayer and reminder that, on the other side of madness, other possibilities await.
Praise for The World at My Back
“Such books as The World at My Back recount experiences of total frenzy from a vantage point of clarity and calm. What makes Melle’s stand out is that he seems aware of how blackly funny the intimate details of psychotic breakdown can be. His narrative skill, in Luise von Flotow’s translation, had me laughing out loud without my losing sight of the sorrow and loneliness behind the succession of outrageous incidents.”
—New York Times
“Thomas Melle’s book takes readers on an at times shockingly articulate tour of his ‘nuclear’ version of bipolar disorder.”
—Globe and Mail
"Melle's account of life with bipolar disorder is candid and surprisingly intelligible."
—Literary Review of Canada
"The World at My Back is in no way an easy read; instead, it’s a candid and frequently harrowing chronicle of its author’s struggles with mental health over the years, and the cyclical nature of its effect on his life. In von Flotow’s translation, this book becomes a source of insight into what its author went through—and what he gained and lost along the way."
—Tobias Carroll, Words Without Borders
"[Melle’s] goal in The World at My Back ... is to show what being mentally ill is really like from the inside. That he is such a talented writer allows him to pull this off powerfully."
—Ottawa Review of Books
"Books written out of great emotional distress are often embarrassing. They are rarely great literature. Thomas Melle's book is great literature because he pulls it off without a single false note."
—Deutschlandfunk (German National Radio)
"Haunting insights into a bipolar identity as seen from the inside … Precisely because it is not a question of fiction—even if there is much talk of literature, even of a 'failed novel of education'—but of a poetic of the authentic, The World at My Back is an impressive document."
—Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
"The author of the book is Thomas Melle, his book is called The World at My Back, and it tells of a much greater conflict and a much greater shame than you, as a reader, will probably ever feel ... Manic-depressive disorder is the tragedy of Thomas Melle’s life. That we can read about it in this book in this way is a wrenching literary event."
"The World at My Back is a book that shakes and disturbs, one that wakes the reader with a punch in the skull, as Franz Kafka wrote ... Melle's text is unique because the author manages to draw you into the action and, as far as possible, give you a realistic impression of the illness … In spite of the desperation and darkness of the subject, you can hardly help but smile at the absurdities—even as they immediately stick in your throat. Added to this is Melle's lively storytelling style, which alone lifts the book well above the wide selection of memoirs of illness."