Judith Schalansky

An Inventory of Certain Losses

(German title: Verzeichnis einiger Verluste)
ca. 252 pages
Judith Schalansky
Foto: Judith Schalansky
© Jürgen Bauer

Judith Schalansky, born in Greifswald in 1980, lives in Berlin where she works as a writer, editor and book designer. Her work, which includes the internationally successful bestsellers Atlas der abgelegenen Inseln and the novel Der Hals der Giraffe, has been translated into more than twenty languages and has won several prizes.

Awards (selection):
2009 ›Most beautiful book of the year‹ by the Book Art Foundation for Atlas der abgelegenen Inseln

2009 Residential grant from Villa Aurora, Los Angeles

2012 ›Most beautiful book of the year‹ by the Book Art Foundation for Der Hals der Giraffe

2018 Wilhelm Raabe Prize for Literature

2020 Christine Lavant Prize

Selected Backlist:
Atlas der abgelegenen Inseln (2009) (Mare)
Translations: USA/UK (Penguin Press), Taiwan (Locus), Russia (Atticus), France (Flammarion), Italy (Bompiani), Denmark (Vandkunsten), Norway (Press), Czech Republic (65. Pole)

Sold to

UK & Commonwealth (MacLehose Press), USA & Canada (New Directions), Spanish world rights (Acantilado), Catalan rights (Mès llibres), Chinese simplex rights (China CITIC Press / Sight), Chinese complex rights (Locus), Portuguese rights (Elsinor), Arabic world rights (Kalima), Italy (Nottetempo), Netherlands (Meridiaan), Denmark (Vandkunsten), Sweden (Pequod Press), Norway (Forlaget Press), Korea (Mujintree), Japan (Kawade), Thailand (Gamme Magie Editions), Indonesia (Yayasan Pustaka Obor), Hungary (Corvina), Croatia (Mizantrop), Greece (Antipodes), Mongolia (Monsudar)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Audiobook (DAV)

»There are no gains without corresponding losses, no losses without corresponding gains.« Agnes Heller

»Western man’s inclination to value what is extinct more than what still exists seems to be one of its more rationally almost incomprehensible qualities, for there could be no other way to explain the strange fascination with the Tasmanian wolf.« Die Neue Brehm-Bücherei natural history series


World history is full of things that have gone astray – willfully destroyed or mislaid over the course of time. In her new book, Judith Schalansky dedicates herself to that which the lost leaves behind: dying echoes and disappearing steps, whispers and legends, apostrophes and phantom pains.

Beginning with objects from nature and art like an incinerated painting of Caspar David Friedrich’s, an extinct species of tiger, a Roman baroque villa, the holy writings of a vanished religion or a sunken island in the Pacific, she presents a panorama of the long lost and disappeared, a panorama which traces the world’s blank spaces together with those within natural and cultural history while opening up areas of knowledge where delivery has failed. The protagonists of these short stories are outsiders: a bizarre old man hoarding the knowledge of humankind in his garden in Tessin, a lunar researcher from Bohemia who gives up all earthly curiosity for a position in the Archive of the Moon, an aged Greta Garbo who dreams of appearing on the silver screen as Dorian Gray, Judith Schalansky’s own father who left the family before she could even form a memory of him. These texts speak about beginnings and endings – and at the same time are an autobiographical trip into a country that no longer exists: childhood, the GDR of the 1980s.

Each of the twelve stories in this collection sketches its own world through a subject-specific language, a world in which the boundaries between presence and absence have disappeared as much as have those between fiction, memoir and essay, while simultaneously questioning the reliability of our individual and collective memories as well as future instruments of transmission. Moreover, every one of the 16-page stories begins and ends with a black page, which, as in a photofit picture, suggests more than depicts the lost. As such, the collection proves itself to be a document of the power of print, the book a more efficacious and long-lasting medium of transmission than any other.

After her Atlas of Remote Islands, in this, her Inventory of Certain Losses, Judith Schalansky once again sounds the spaces between reality and imagination, truth and myth, fact and fiction. The result is a lively evocation of the lost and the remote, which suggests that perhaps the difference between presence and absence is only marginal as long as memory still exists – that, and a literature which reveals just how close preservation and destruction, loss and creation, really are.


»With an empirical gaze that drives her poetic pen and the realisation that the greatest miracle in the world is the world itself, [Schalansky] proves that you can write true and enchanting at the same time.« HUMO (Belgium)

»An Inventory of Certain Losses is a dazzlingly beautiful book, particularly successful in content and form. A wonderful piece of work, for which no praise is too much. It is a book that effortlessly commands [our] full attention and focus. At the same time, [Schalansky] succeeds in stunningly elevating this book to a true work of art itself. An absolute blessing and triumph for literature.« Philippe De Cleen, Cutting Edge (Belgium)

»The most wondrous book of the year: by taking the vanished and turning it into a great piece of literature, the author and book designer has performed a feat of magic.« Alexander Cammann, DIE ZEIT

»Schalansky finds a unique tone for every story. ... At times historicising, at times ostentatiously erudite with flights of ornamental grammar, and then once again spare, sober, simple. This is no mass-produced home through which Schalansky leads us; indeed, behind every door of this fascinating villa a new cabinet of curiosities awaits ... « taz. die tageszeitung

»The degree to which changes of historical consequence are mirrored in our personal lives: this is what novelist Judith Schalansky in her poetic Inventory of Certain Losses has brought into a form which is both profound and enjoyable to read.« Andrea Köhler, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

»Like everything Schalansky does this pleasingly arranged collection almost feels like the perfect example of how books on the art of storytelling should be done. The form the investigation takes cannot be derived from the object, but itself remains a discovery every time.« Richard Kämmerlings, Die literarische Welt

»Judith Schalansky’s latest book is a collection of tales on an important theme: loss. What we gain, however, is literature, the kind one encounters on only the rarest of occasions.« Andreas Platthaus, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»A literary sensation.« Stern

»These texts, the result of painstaking research with many different source materials and deep deliberation, do not always have to lead to profound expansions of consciousness. Their appeal lies in their depiction of grief as something which intimately belongs to us and is ultimately inseparable from our experience. These are stories we dearly need, stories of humility.« Der Tagesspiegel

»[Schalansky] transforms the many worthwhile little details into a wonderful cabinet of curiosities. One breathlessly makes one’s way through this book like a zoo for extinct creatures.« Jörg Magenau, Süddeutsche Zeitung

» … a many-voiced, painstakingly researched and wonderfully fanciful approach to phenomena of destruction and degradation.« ORF

»Her sumptuous way of telling stories preserves what we have long forgotten, believed, or possibly did not even know. In quick times like our own her work is like a lighthouse for which all waves are the same: it illuminates all that we perceive too casually.« Spiegel Online

»An Inventory of Certain Losses has just appeared with Suhrkamp and already the magnificent title as well as the black-and-silver dust-jacket reveal, with typically Schalansky-esque understatement, her theme: people, animals, cultures, inventions, what all disappears!« ZEIT Magazin

»Twelve life-affirming, must-read stories ... « Deutschlandfunk Kultur

»The text forms of this particularly beautiful book are as different as the lost photos, objects, or people ... Twelve times the author evokes the literary power of memory in surprising and convincing ways.« rbb kulturradio

» … with Judith Schalansky’s latest work we have an exceptional book of prose, a more than worthy follow-up to her 2011 novel The Giraffe’s NeckWiener Zeitung

»What does one do with things that have been lost? Sappho’s poems, for example, or the Palace of the Republic, the Caspian tiger? One tells their stories ... Schalansky does it. In the most beautiful book of the year.« BuchMarkt

»[Schalansky] is one of her generation’s most important creators of literature.« Galore

»[Schalansky’s] insatiable curiosity, love of detail, and lust for adventure are astonishing.« Nordkurier


Judith Schalansky reads from An Inventory of Certain Losses:

Other publications

Der Hals der Giraffe/The Giraffe's Neck (2011)

Sold to:

English world rights (Bloomsbury), Spanish world rights (Random House Mondadori), Chinese simplex rights (People's Literature Publishing House), Chinese complex rights (Locus), Russia (Text), Brazilian Portuguese Rights (Objetiva), France (Actes Sud), Italy (nottetempo), Netherlands (Signatuur), Denmark (Vandkunsten), Sweden (Pequod Press), Norway (Press), Finland (Tammi), Korea (Galmuri), Czech Republic (Paseka), Hungary (Typotex), Bulgaria (Geia-Libris), Romania (Allfa), Estonia (Tänapäev), Israel (Keter Books)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Audiobook (DAV), German Book Club (Büchergilde Gutenberg), German Radio Play (SWR), German Stage Adaptations (Schauspiel Frankfurt - also performed at various other German Theatres; Maxim Gorki Theatre Berlin)