The Seventh Well | Granta

  • Published: 01/02/2009
  • ISBN: 9781847080677
  • 129x20mm
  • 176 pages

The Seventh Well

Fred Wander

Translated by Michael Hofmann

The Seventh Well is a short autobiographical novel, its loose, episodic chapters covering the period of 1942-5, which the author spent in German concentration camps. Flashbacks recall his early internment in France, and the book closes with the liberation of Buchenwald in April 1945. Rather than focus on his own story though, Fred Wander describes the lives and deaths of his fellow internees – the creative power of his story-telling invests their deaths with dignity and keeps their memories alive. It was first published in 1971, then reissued with a new afterword to great acclaim in Germany in 2005, the year before the author died aged ninety. This new translation by acclaimed translator and poet Michael Hofmann captures the power and physicality of his language.

Of all the accounts I have read of survival in the Nazi laager ... few approach Wander's for the quality of its writing or its civilised mission to bear witness. The book's limpid, clean-cut narrative creates an extraordinary sense of communion and intimacy with the reader. Exquisitely translated by Michael Hofmann, The Seventh Well is not a memoir; it is a work of art

Ian Thomson, Guardian

Prose of spectacular, often Biblical beauty ... It is beautiful and strange; rich in those moments, those passing observations of joy as well as horror, that cause the reader to stop and grasp that this is what it was like to wander through hell - and then survive carrying a powerful clutch of stories

Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

The Seventh Well by Fred Wander, translated by Michael Hofmann, is that book which makes the world tilt on its axis; it makes you say: Oh, now I see ...! It made me glad that, for once in my life, I'd been forced to do something I didn't want to

Julie Burchill, Observer

The Author

Fred Wander was born in 1917 in Vienna. In 1938 he emigrated to France and was interned there in 1939 before escaping to Switzerland, from where he was deported to Germany in 1942. He survived Auschwitz, Buchenwald and several other concentration camps. He was moved to write The Seventh Well after the tragic death of his daughter Kitty. Fred Wander died in 2006 aged ninety.

More about the author →

The Translator

Michael Hofmann is a poet, translator and critic. His latest book of poems is One Lark, One Horse. He recently translated Jenny Erpenbeck’s novel Kairos.

More about the translator →