Heinz Helle

Euphoria - Novel

Literal translation of German title: Actually, We Should Dance
(German title: Eigentlich müssten wir tanzen)
ca. 173 pages
Heinz Helle
Foto: Heinz Helle
© Max Zerrahn

Heinz Helle was born in 1978. He studied philosophy in Munich and New York. He has worked as copywriter for advertising agencies, and is a graduate of the Swiss Literature Institute in Biel. He lives in Zürich.

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English world rights (Serpent's Tail), Chinese simplex rights (People's Literature Publishing House), Arabic world rights (Al Kotob Khan), France (Piranha)

Nominated for the Longlist of the German Book Prize 2015

What is the difference between living and surviving?

»If somebody rebuilds the world after we’ve gone, it’ll be a silent world.«


A group of young men spends a weekend in a mountain cabin. When they return to the lowlands, they find devastated villages. The people are dead or have fled, houses and stores have been looted, and burnt-out cars line the streets. Left with no other option, they try to make their way back to their home town on foot. They function, as well as they can under the circumstances.

They roam the destroyed land during the day and their memories during the night, searching for a reason to stay alive. For days, they wander through forests covered with snow and empty villages. Hunger, thirst and the cold affect them more and more and their hopes of getting home without severe losses fades with every passing day that they fight for survival in the forbidding mountains. They search for food desperately, build improvised shelters to protect them against the cold of the night, but their former lives as a pilot, an insurance salesman and a pharmacist have not prepared them for this existence. And as their strength fades, solidarity within the group diminishes. In the fight for survival, it’s each for their own and the weaker ones among them are left behind…

»This is bold. More please!«, is what the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung demanded after the publication of Heinz Helle’s debut novel. Helle is not one to hesitate, and he raises the stakes with Euphoria. In his new novel, Helle deals with the question of whether it’s enough to maintain basic bodily functions in order to call oneself »alive«. The answer that this book gives is, possibly, not comforting. But it takes your breath away with suspense.


»Helle's impressionistic tale skips from incident to incident and past to present, bringing the emotional physical trials of the group to vivid life.« James Smart, Guardian

»Profound and extremely unsettling with a powerful message for our increasingly hate-filled times.« John Harding, Daily Mail

»Makes The Road seem like a Disney cartoon by comparison ... Helle is an astute predictor of human nature, and part of the reason this book is so haunting is because his characters all react to their constantly-deteriorating circumstances in entirely believable though by no means predictable ways. Euphoria may not take long to read, but it will certainly take a long time to forget.« Roger Cox, Scotsman

»[Helle] finds images that burn themselves into the readers’ mind. He combines radical hopelessness and detached cruelty with such a clear, thoroughly arranged and simultaneously poetic language to the effect that the unsettling content comes down on the reader in an eerily soft way. [A] moving experience.« NZZ

»Heinz Helle’s new novel is a book of 69 […] powerful, impressive short scenes, some of which will remain etched into your mind after reading because they are so unsettling, so cruel and cold. But also: so beautiful. […] [Helle’s] second novel, that one would have wished a nomination for the short- as well as the longlist of the German Book Prize, is more thrilling in its subject, more precise, but in its form not less radical [than Superabundance].« Frankfurter Rundschau

»[a] wonderfully dark novel […] Helle creates powerful, moving, even funny scenes. […] [He] hasn’t just written a merely post-apocalyptic novel, but also one about male friendship; a novel that tells as much about the passing of time as it knows to juxtapose nature and civilization (and the fatigue thereof). Despite of all the darkness, the apocalypse, there hasn’t been that much of the present evident in German literature for a long time.« Tagesspiegel

»Heinz Helle forces his readers to radically ask themselves: wherein do I actually find the meaning of my existence? In the end this sinister book is, despite its superficial maliciousness, deeply life-affirming.« neues deutschland

»This [book] is not about the heroic survival in a dystopia as it is portrayed in Hollywood. This is where, step by step and page by page, hope disappears. But still you cannot put the book down. Still you hold out in breathless excitement until the end. A must-read.« Nürnberger Nachrichten

»Euphoria is a book that gives you chills. In a language that is clear as crystal, but also poetic, Helle touches upon something existential. He speaks of beauty and of the indifference of nature at the same time, of the human’s will to survive, of his mercilessness, but also of his ability to form friendships.« Focus online

»Euphoria is a brilliant novel about the fragile structures of our civilisation, about the evanescence of friendship and the fine line on which we balance between the abysses of barbarianism.« lustauflesen.de

»In a language that is downright enchanting in its lack of emotion, Heinz Helle depicts far more than a story of the apocalypse, but dares to venture into a narrative on the meaning of life, alone and in a society that becomes increasingly estranged from itself. All in all, you’d have to ask yourself: Is it worth surviving the apocalypse?« fixpoetry.com


Heinz Helle reads from his novel Euphoria:

Other publications

Die Überwindung der Schwerkraft/Overcoming Gravity (2018)

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Bulgaria (Funtasy), Greece (Gutenberg)

Der beruhigende Klang von explodierendem Kerosin/Superabundance (2014)

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English world rights (Serpent's Tail), Russia (Text), Bulgaria (Funtasy), Turkey (Kafka Yayinevi)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Audiobook (Hörbuch Hamburg)