Clemens J. Setz

The Hour Between Woman and Guitar - Novel

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

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

Nominated for the Longlist of the German Book Prize 2015

Wilhelm-Raabe-Prize 2015

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

»One of the highest hopes of German literature.« Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung



In a residential home for people with physical and mental disabilities, a young woman – Natalie Reinegger – is employed as a caregiver to Alexander Dorm. The man is confined to a wheelchair, has an unpredictable temper and is regarded as »difficult«. Nevertheless, he has a visitor every week. That visitor, of all people, is Christoph Hollberg – the man whose life Dorm allegedly ruined years ago when he stalked him so relentlessly that he drove Hollberg’s wife to suicide.

The »arrangement« was based on mutual benefit, Natalie is being assured, and they liked one another very much. But soon the blatant aversion that Hollberg shows towards his supposed friend unsettles Natalie. She tries to uncover the enigmatic visitor’s secret and to understand the motives for his actions. She quickly realises that her new environment is shaped by nearly inscrutable relationships: the way the other carers behave among themselves is unfathomable, opaque are their relationships with the patients. Natalie is slowly drawn into a subtle, double-edged power play, the rules of which she only begins to understand gradually.

The novel spans over 1.000 pages – a book like »a lively micropolis«, as the author describes it – and is filled with peculiar niches and asides, full of outrageous and shocking moments, but also full of tenderness and moving scenes.

The Hour Between Woman and Guitar is a rollercoaster ride into the world of Clemens J. Setz. He reveals its inner order, its secrets and principles: power and the lack thereof, the search for meaning and loss of orientation, submission and love in all forms and shapes: nurturing, respectful, obsessed love, love as delusion and as a tool of manipulation. And of revenge. So subtle and painful that the question of who is the victim and who the perpetrator leads into a nameless abyss.


»In Clemens J. Setz’s works, all roads lead into the eerie vale in which things look like their opposite.« Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung

»one thousand pages of poetic terror« Süddeutsche Zeitung

»[an] ingenious novel […] [that] has the potential to become a cult novel. […] Despite its darkness, it will fascinate all of us, because it’s both freaky and extremely contemporary.« Die Zeit

»the most provocative, most intelligent, most linguistically powerful and the most unsettling novel of the year.« Die Welt

»This book is a fascinating imposition« taz.am wochenende

»a synaesthetic brain massage that last for a thousand pages. […] Emotional dissection from Mach to Musil, form-fragmentation from Bahr to Bernhard.« Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»The greatest manipulator [in this novel] is, of course, Clemens J. Setz himself who presents his readers with insights into the cabinets of wonder and horror and leads them into the raptures of reading until they don’t know what hit them.« Tagesanzeiger.CH

»The Hour Between Woman and Guitar by Clemens J. Setz is a cunning attack on the mental integrity of the reader. […] [It] is a philosophical, psychological thriller that leaves the reader with the uncomfortable feeling of being followed by something. By something? It’s the novel itself that stalks us.« Literarische Welt

»Clemens J. Setz’s novel picks you up and lets you float through the 1.000 pages so easily [that it seems] as if you suddenly found yourself in a world without friction, without aerodynamic resistance or gravity.« Literaturspiegel

»[a novel that] resonates for much longer than all guitar strings in this world [combined]. […] probably the strangest ménage-à-trois in literary history. […] Certainly the craziest novel of the year […] We don’t know what Clemens Setz is doing to us, but we can’t but follow him.« Stuttgarter Zeitung

»What a talent! [The Hour Between Woman and Guitar is] addictive.« Augsburger Allgemeine

»a novel like a delirium, escalating and highly concentrated« WOZ Die Wochenzeitung, CH

»The author is able to tell his story in a masterfully casual and effortless way, without pathos and never psychologizing, let alone moralising. Having fun with this novel doesn’t have to stop after the last of the 1021 pages. When browsing the book backwards, you can rummage around in the treasure chest of the author’s fantastic ideas. Or just in [his] beautiful sentences« focus.de

»What do you call a project like this in which there is no singularity that holds the world together in its core, but where everything contributes to preventing isolation? Bold? Groundbreaking? Megalomaniacal? Pointless? Setz doesn’t care.« intellectures.de

»a psychological profile of our present« Heilbronner Stimme

»nobody is as capable as Clemens J. Setz in detecting the freak within us all in such an intelligent and multifaceted way.« Bücher Magazin

»While reading [the book], you feel transported to a different physical state. It’s not always pleasant. But it’s an extraordinary reading experience. Simply staggering.« WDR3

»The bothersome tension of feeling like you can’t extract yourself from this irritating world prevails. […] ›Every person is an abyss; one gets dizzy when looking down,‹ claims Büchner’s Woyzeck. Setz delivers unsettling evidence for that.« Oberösterreichische Nachrichten

»Setz‘s writing and narration, the exposed inner worlds and the conflicts portrayed and solved within the plot, [as well as] the structuring of motives are – as you’ve come to know from his previous books – effortless, elegant and created in such a way that you don’t even notice the technique what with all the entertaining casualness of the narration. ›Oh, if only one could write like him‹, Hans Magnus Enzensberger is reported to have said when both authors met in Sweden.« literaturkritik.de


Book Trailer for The Hour Between Woman and Guitar:

Clemens J. Setz reads from his novel The Hour Between Woman and Guitar:

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

Indigo/Indigo (2012)

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)

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)