Bernd Cailloux

The American Son - Novel

(German title: Der amerikanische Sohn)
ca. 224 pages
Bernd Cailloux
Foto: Bernd Cailloux
© Susanne Schleyer

Bernd Cailloux, born 1945, is the author of novels, short stories, essays, and radio plays. His novel Das Geschäftsjahr 1968/69 (The Fiscal Year 1968/69), in many ways a precursor to Allowed Losses, received outstanding reviews in the media. The author lives in Berlin.

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The revolution is looking for its children


How about you? Do you have children? – Yes, a son, in America. Silence ensues. The question, innocently asked on the periphery of a panel discussion, touches upon a trauma. The protagonist learned of his fatherhood thirty years ago, coincidentally, on a dancefloor.

The boy named Eno grew up in Jamaica and later in the USA. There was no contact. The mother, originally from Hamburg, went her own way. Therefore, the son’s existence was never really of much concern to the father, who, as an activist and hippie businessman, wasn’t very interested in family matters. But in 2014, a foundation invites him to New York, giving him an opportunity to come to terms with the suppressed events. The more he delves into the city, following the traces of the 1970s underground to the portents of Donald Trump’s presidency in familiar and unfamiliar places, the more urgency the question of the close yet distant, already grown-up child gains.

With self-irony and warm conciseness, Bernd Cailloux sets out on the search for the lost son, on a journey to the USA and into his own past and the strange present – as a flâneur on foot in New York, hesitantly on the internet and ultimately on a plane headed to Menlo Park, to the Western end of the Western world. The conclusion of the autobiographical trilogy Bernd Cailloux began in 2005 with The Business Year of 1968/69 and continued in 2012 with Allowed Losses. Both novels were nominated for the German Book Prize.


»The text is written quite smoothly, sometimes as though drafted at the counter of an intellectuals‘ bar, always with a concurrent subtext, but at the same time the novel is constructed masterfully and lives on its allusions and cross references.« Helmut Böttiger, Süddeutsche Zeitung

»[…] if someone treats their past in a productive way, if it is reflected on, emphasised, and used as a contrasting background humorously, in order to comment on the present, everyone gets something out of it […] One who knows how to deal with one’s own past in this manner off pat is Bernd Cailloux.« Tilman Krause, Die literarische Welt

»In the melancholy echo of lost loves, of mistakes that can no longer be rectified and against all the general criticism of those tired of New York, the narrator reclaims the city that still fascinates him against his will. Not only a nimble-footed stroll but also nimbly told, leaving ironic waymarks and scents of memory behind.« Ulrike Baureithel, Der Tagesspiegel

»The American Son is extremely gripping […] The novel is more like an interrogation of the self; it tells the story of a single man in his early seventies, who […] grapples with himself, thinking about his legacy (not the material, as there is none of that).« Jens Uthoff, taz. die tageszeitung

»No one writes as clear-sightedly about 1968 and its consequences as Bernd Cailloux – he has witnessed much of it first-hand.« Tobias Rapp, DER SPIEGEL

»Author Bernd Cailloux succeeds in discovering himself on the search for his son in a language that is free of wistfulness and pathos.« stern

»Cailloux is an exceptionally gifted describer, who knows how to seduce with elegantly staged walks exploring cities, who impressively manages to translate his own fascination, which is never uncritical, into a language that makes the reader become captured by this intoxication with New York.« Michael Opitz, Deutschlandfunk Kultur

»The American Son is a laconically and humorously told novel that feeds off the protagonist‘s numerous memories.« Andreas Schröter, Ruhr Nachrichten

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