Stephan Lohse

A Lazy God

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Shortlisted for the ZDF-“aspekte”-Literaturpreis 2017


On the impertinence of life and the joy of ordinariness


Autumn, 1972. 8-year-old Jonas dies. His mother Ruth and his brother Benjamin try to carry on, each in their own way. Ruth decides to investigate Jonas’s death. She questions the lifeguard and his apprentice in the swimming pool where he died; in the hospital, she has them explain his death to her. She reads books, searching for a hidden meaning in all of this, and feeds an abandoned chiffchaff. At night, she sits on an electric blanket and falls into despair over the loss of her child. Ben comes home especially punctual these days, he helps Ruth in the kitchen, plays something for her on his recorder and talks to her about earthworms, beavers and the archaeopteryx. He adjusts. While Ben finds back to life in the following months, Ruth loses herself in the void of her grief. »Once it grows colder, we’ll leave,« she says. In the autumn of 1973, they set out.

In his debut novel, Stephan Lohse writes about the worst that could happen to a family, the death of a child, full of empathy. But first and foremost, he writes about life and what it demands of those who remain: of pain and forlornness, but also of the unquenchable yearning for overcoming the grief, for the joy of ordinariness.


»You have to imagine the happy hunting grounds as a gap in time. Jonas will forever stay the way you remember him there.«


»Stephan Lohse tells a strangely floating story of mourning and loss, from the wonderful adventures of childhood to how a son and a mother find each other through pain and helplessness. His novel is sensitive, without ever being kitschy, touching and humorous and is marked by a great feel for telling details. A beautiful, impressive debut.« Hubert Spiegel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»Lohses novel is full of sadness and loss, it is touching, but completely free of kitsch...« Gerrit Bartels, Der Tagesspiegel

»Stephan Lohse verifies the oldest, most inexplicable secret of literature: how consoling extremely sad stories can be.« Annemarie Stoltenberg, NDR Kultur

»In his debut novel Stephan Lohse has managed to capture the perspective and vocabulary of the young boy so well that he never once drifts into cliche. The skilled actor has mastered the art of changing roles.« Barbara, April 2017

»…one of the most gripping books you will have read in quite some time.« Günther Höfler, Kleine Zeitung

»This novel is touching without being sentimental, it goes straight to the heart, makes you feel sad and yet shows you how important life is even in moments of great sorrow.« Cathrin Brackmann, WDR 4 Bücher

»The touching scenes and comedic observations plunge the reader deep into the psychology of a mother-son relationship and into day-to-day life in the 1970s. [...] The details that jump into the eye of an eleven-year-old boy transform the novel into a truly poetic adventure.« Karim Saab, Leipziger Volkszeitung

»With a poignant sense of the comic, Stephan Lohse tells the story of the creativity of a boy who teaches his mother how to mourn and shows her how lucky one is to be alive even after the greatest pain.« Annette Wild, buch SZENE

»Actor Stephan Lohse's first novel, Ein fauler Gott, unfolds in such a compassionate, precise and at the same time humorous way that it is almost impossible to put down.« Eva Pfister, Lesart