Clemens J. Setz

Indigo - Novel

(German title: Indigo)
ca. 479 pages
Clemens J. Setz
Foto: Clemens J. Setz
© Max Zerrahn

Clemens J. Setz, born 1982, lives in Graz.

»As evil as Nabokov, as virtuosic as David Foster Wallace.« Welt am Sonntag

»One of the highest hopes of German literature.« FAZ

Prizes received for his work:

Heinrich von Kleist Prize 2020

Berliner Literaturpreis 2019

Merck-Kakehashi-Award 2018 (for Indigo)

Literaturpreis der Steiermark 2017

Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis 2015

Longlisted for the German Book Prize 2015 (for Die Stunde zwischen Frau und Gitarre)

Literaturpreis des Kulturkreises der deutschen Wirtschaft 2013

Shortlisted for the German Book Prize 2012 (for Indigo)

Leipzig Book Fair Prize 2011 (for Die Liebe zur Zeit des Mahlstädter Kindes)

Literature Prize of the City of Bremen 2010

Shortlisted for the German Book Prize 2009 (for Die Frequenzen)

Ernst-Willner-Preis 2008 at the Ingeborg-Bachmann-Wettbewerb

Sold to

USA (W. W. Norton / Liveright), UK (Serpent's Tail), Chinese complex rights (China Times), France (Jacqueline Chambon), Italy (La Nave di Teseo), Denmark (Vandkunsten), Japan (Kokusho Kankokai), Czech Republic (Fra), Hungary (Europa), Bulgaria (Funtasy), Croatia (Hena Com)

Shortlisted for the German Book Prize 2012


»He is the prodigy of German literature: radical, imperative, with a sound entirely different from his own generation. Of an apocalyptic desperation.« Die Zeit


In the northern part of Styria, Austria, lies Helianau, a boarding school for children suffering from a mysterious condition known as indigo syndrome. Everyone who comes to close to them is struck by nausea, dizziness and severe headaches.

A young man named Clemens Setz who teaches mathematics at the school becomes aware of strange goings on: on several occasions he sees children in bizarre masks being driven off to an unknown destination. Setz begins to investigate the matter but he doesn’t get far before he is dismissed from his position at the school. Fifteen years later, the newspapers are filled with reports of a sensational court case: a former maths teacher has been found not guilty of brutally murdering an animal torturer.

And once more from the beginning. Forget about this plot summary of a novel that resists all summarisation, and just read the book: Indigo by Clemens J. Setz, the long-awaited novel by the author of the successful short story collection Die Liebe zur Zeit des Mahlstädter Kindes (Leipzig Book Fair Prize 2011, 40,000 copies sold). Devilishly exciting and as refreshing as a good massage. Afterwards you’ll feel every single muscle.


»The questions [Indigo] raises regarding empathy and loneliness are explored in moving and idiosyncratic ways.« New Yorker

»Alarming and surreally beautiful« Times Literary Supplement

»If it’s possible to discover a cult novel in the moment of its publication, then the unclassifiable Indigo by Austrian prodigy Clemens J. Setz could easily join that category. Firstly because of its subject, madly original. Curious, disturbing and indispensable.« L’Obs, France

»It’s not possible to summarize this novel, for it is ambitious, unclassifiable and demanding. Clemens Setz, the new star of German literature, somewhere between geek and nerd prodigy, mixes genres and narratives, uses typography, photos, true and made-up footnotes, and abolishes boundaries between reality and fiction. […] A novel beyond any standards.« Focus Vif, France

»Clemens Setz […] himself is somewhat of the ›Indigo child‹ of Austrian literature, at once young, multi-award winning prodigy, expert of perverse scenography and logical depravities. In short, an indigo novel, ingeniously morbid.« Le Monde des livres, France

»A syncopated, haunted text, Indigo is an exploration of individual and collective misery, of this disturbing area between indignation and disgust that arises from the most despicable practices of our society. […] A new voice in literature, impressive, mysterious, vaguely toxic, terribly attractive. […] The strength of the novel resides in what isn’t said. […] Setz masters the art of hints, allusion and connivance to perfection. […] Readers are left to draw their own conclusions about this dark intrigue – a bold gamble that launches the author of IndigoTransfuge, France

»A dark and metaphysical scifi-crime novel by a new literary star.« Politiken, Denmark

»No one gets out unscathed. Caution: highly addictive.« Andreas Platthaus, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»There can be no doubt that Indigo is the most interesting, most discussion-inducing book of the season.« Verena Auffermann, dradio.de

»In Indigo Clemens J. Setz takes a gothic and esoteric plot and transforms it into a great narrative about fictional reality.« Jan Wiele, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»Clemens J. Setz [...] is one thing above all else: astonishingly original.« Ulrike Sárkany, ndr.de

»Discover this book, give yourself over to it; it’s an adventure.« wien-heute.at

»With journalistic instinct and an ever increasing, fateful determination, Setz sets out in search of the missing children.« Focus Online

»To say that the text literally seizes hold of the reader's body, infecting and attacking it - is presumably the highest compliment one could pay Setz.« Eva Behrendt, taz

»... Indigo is mad, ambitious and self-ironic.« Helmut Böttinger, Süddeutsche Zeitung

»His constructions are bold and devilishly good.« Peter Pisa, Kurier

»Clemens Setz masterfully juggles interspersed photos, hand-written insertions and typographic variation, references to literature, music, film, art, and comic books.« Kristina Pfoser, ORF.at

»Indigo is the rare case of a literary work that makes its own laws for no other reason than the exigencies of its own universe. And at the same time the novel is written in an unpretentious style, full of dialogue and variety, amusing, anecdotal, but also brutal and unfathomable.« Volker Hage, Der Spiegel


Clemens J. Setz reads from his novel Indigo


Other publications

Der Trost runder Dinge/The Comfort of Round Things (2019)

Sold to:

Russia (Symposium), France (Actes Sud), Italy (La Nave di Teseo), Denmark (Vandkunsten), Greece (Gutenberg)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Audiobook (Griot)

Bot/Bot (2018)

Rights available

Die Stunde zwischen Frau und Gitarre/The Hour Between Woman and Guitar (2015)

Sold to:

Spanish world rights (Malpaso), France (Jacqueline Chambon), Italy (La Nave di Teseo), Bulgaria (Paradox)

Die Liebe zur Zeit des Mahlstädter Kindes/Love in the Times of the Mahlstädter Child (2011)

Sold to:

Arabic world rights (Al'Asreya), France (Actes Sud / Jacqueline Chambon), Denmark (Vandkunsten), Czech Republic (Fra), Hungary (Europa), Bulgaria (Funtasy), Romania (Univers), Macedonia (Blesok)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Audiobook (Griot)