The Pine Islands

Marion Poschmann (Author) Jen Calleja (Translator)




"Readers who like quiet, meditative works will enjoy this strangely affecting buddy story." --Publishers Weekly

"Rather than tying up the loose ends, she leaves them beautifully fluttering in the wind, and you do not feel lost in that experience. The writing is poetic and it's worth savouring." --Angela Caravan, Shrapnel

A bad dream leads to a strange poetic pilgrimage through Japan in this playful and profound Booker International-shortlisted novel.

Gilbert Silvester, eminent scholar of beard fashions in film, wakes up one day from a dream that his wife has cheated on him. Certain the dream is a message, and unable to even look at her, he flees - immediately, irrationally, inexplicably - for Japan. In Tokyo he discovers the travel writings of the great Japanese poet Basho. Keen to cure his malaise, he decides to find solace in nature the way Basho did. Suddenly, from Gilbert's directionless crisis there emerges a purpose: a pilgrimage in the footsteps of the poet to see the moon rise over the pine islands of Matsushima. Although, of course, unlike the great poet, he will take a train. Along the way he falls into step with another pilgrim: Yosa, a young Japanese student clutching a copy of The Complete Manual of Suicide . Together, Gilbert and Yosa travel across Basho's disappearing Japan, one in search of his perfect ending and the other a new beginning. Serene, playful, and profound, The Pine Islands is a story of the transformations we seek and the ones we find along the way.

Product Details

$16.95  $15.59
Coach House Books
Publish Date
April 14, 2020
4.9 X 0.6 X 8.0 inches | 0.5 pounds
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About the Author

Marion Poschmann was born in Essen in 1969. Recognized as one of Germany's foremost poets and novelists, she has won both of Germany's premier poetry prizes. She is the author of four novels, the last three of which have been nominated for the German Book Prize, and she won the prestigious Wilhelm Raabe Literature Prize in 2013. The Pine Islands is her first novel to be translated into English. She currently lives in Berlin.
Jen Calleja is a writer, musician, and literary translator. She has translated works by Wim Wenders, Gregor Hens, Kerstin Hensel, and Michelle Steinbeck, and her translations have been featured in The New Yorker and The White Review, among others. She was the inaugural Translator in Residence at the British Library, and her reviews, articles, interviews, and essays have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Modern Poetry in Translation, Brixton Review of Books, New Books in German, and elsewhere. Her first poetry collection, Serious Justice, was published by Test Centre in 2016. She currently lives in London.


"... Marion Poschmann, a multi-award-winning poet and novelist in her native Germany, now appears in English fully formed, translated by Jen Calleja, and has all the air of uncovered greatness.

The Pine Islands is a story that doesn't tie up loose ends but leaves themes scattered as needles on the forest floor, allowing the reader to spot their patterns. The best approach to this beguiling, unpredictable book is to follow Gilbert's advice on reciting poetry: "to let it affect you, and simply accept it in all its striking, irrational beauty" - John Self, The Guardian

"A funny, strange and sad read ... Marion Poschmann's writing - translated into English by Jen Calleja - is deliciously vivid ... this is a refreshing book for the curious reader" - Herald

"The German award-winning poet, Marion Poschmann has written a witty and meditative parody on the pilgrimage taken by the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. In fewer than 200 pages the reader is drawn in to an absurd and poignant narrative that begins when the protagonist, Gilbert Silvester, whimsically escapes to Japan.

Poschmann pokes fun at her characters with her pithy prose and reveals the still beauty to be found in life beneath a mask of black humour." - The Irish Times

"A quirky, unpredictable and darkly comic confrontation with mortality." - Man Booker prize Jury