Jakob Nolte

Short Book About Tobias - Novel

(German title: Kurzes Buch über Tobias)
ca. 231 pages
Jakob Nolte
Foto: Jakob Nolte
© Rachel Israela

Jakob Nolte, born in 1988, grew up in Barsinghausen am Deister. His plays have received numerous awards and were staged at various theatres around Europe. His debut novel ALFF was awarded the Kunstpreis Literatur 2016. His novel Schreckliche Gewalten was longlisted for the German Book Prize 2017. Together with Leif Randt he curates the website tegelmedia.net. Short Book About Tobias is his first work to be published by Suhrkamp Verlag.

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»That sentence turned into crystal in my head: A paradise is concealed within the world.«

»Every biography is a gospel.«


In forty-eight chapters Short Book About Tobias describes the life of the writer, pastor and televangelist Tobias Becker. He grew up in Lower Saxony and now lives in Berlin, he likes to play table tennis and wants what is good. On a trip to Belgrade, he falls in love with a man called Tobias and discovers God. He witnesses people turn into rabbits, love turn into hate and an airplane burning to ashes in the Alps. Like many men, Tobias believes that within him hides a messiah. In Tobias Becker’s world, everything is inextricably linked: family, faith, subject and violence. It is a world full of nightmares and miracles.

Jakob Nolte’s new novel is a modern hagiography, a mystical mystery. It deals with the loneliness in one’s home and the forlornness in the cities, with omnipotence and great insecurity, spirituality and the internet, the yearning for belonging and the pursuit of meaning. It plays havoc with any ideas about biographical or autofictional writing and explores the wealth of literature in a unique way: storytelling full of humour and knowledge, full of romance, sadness and sparkling wit.


»Short Book about Tobias is full of brilliant sentences. This flicker of a dark crystal cannot be captured.« Anna-Lisa Dieter, DIE ZEIT

»The medialisation renders any radicalism impossible, Tobias is caught in the hell of self-optimisation: The more successful he becomes, […] the bigger is his passivity. A conventionally structured novel could merely report this dilemma ...« Felix Stephan, Süddeutsche Zeitung

»In the end one is overcome by the desire to take the book apart and order the chapters anew … [but then] the suspicion arises the Nolte’s technique is so ingenious that the order of the chapters is of no importance.« Tobias Langley-Hunt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung

»Once you understand that time does not move in a linear but in a circular manner for Jakob Nolte, the fragments suddenly turn into an astute portrait of our society.« Anja Kümmel, Der Tagesspiegel

»Surrounded by screens: Jakob Nolte’s new novel-grotesque toys with humour, the ridiculous and the religious in abundance.« Hanna Engelmeier, ZEIT Online

»Jakob Nolte’s unconventional style is one of the most exciting things German literature has to offer.« Rolling Stone

»With Short Book about Tobias, Jakob Nolte is writing literature towards a new ground zero by carrying the interplay between cynical distance and the desire for truthful narration to extremes.« Lisa Kreißler, NDR