Sibylle Berg‘s first book, “A Few People Search For Happiness And Laugh Themselves To Death“, appeared in 1997, not long before the turn of the millennium, and it promptly became a sensation. This episodic novel gave a mute, paralysed era an utterly new voice. Since then, Berg‘s style has become unmistakeable: headstrong and precise, it‘s the sound that a generation of young people and outsiders found themselves in.
»All these stories, sometimes slapstick, sometimes grotesque - and told very coldly and precisely - proceed with an unstoppable mechanism. That is the great quality of this debut - there’s no whinging, and certainly no arm- chair psychology.«
The novel is a rondel of despairing, tired western Europeans - a journey through Europe and its prevalent sense of being satiated, but not knowing what with. The novel‘s multi-perspective narrative technique was unique in German literature at the time, offering a new portrayal of loneliness, helplessness, human despair, suicide, anorexia, injury, violence and sex - the characters‘ incapacity to deal with life combined with this utterly new, radically raw style, which rejected superfluity while maintaining a comic edge, has hit a whole generation of readers to this day. The book has since become a fixture of school curriculums in Germany and many other European countries.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
“Sibylle Berg depicts the nineties as the hour of weak sentiment and barren words. Love and passion, despair and unhappiness have only survived as pitiful echoes or earlier times. While the eighties was a decade of greed that treated emotion as a scarce commodity, the nineties seem to have become an era of apathy in which all ideals have been destroyed, and all illusions burst. And there isn’t much left of language either.”
Times Literary Supplement
“Ein paar Leute... is a novel which sees tragedy as well as beauty in the banalities of everyday life. True feeling is never very far from tackiness, prompting a German reviewer to dismiss Berg’s writing as ‘German trash.’ This it is not, though, for Ein paar Leute... is carried by the author’s sympathy for her characters and their predicament. Not, though, by her sentimentality: of her ten protagonists, Berg dispatches all but one, with no shortage of gruesome detail, the description of which she seems positively to enjoy.”