The WallThe Wall by Marlen Haushofer
Published by Cleis Press on May 21st 2013
Pages: 240
Genres: Dystopian, Fiction, General, Literary, Psychological, Science Fiction, War & Military
eBook provided by My Wallet (purchased)

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“I can allow myself to write the truth; all the people for whom I have lied throughout my life are dead…” writes the heroine of Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall, a quite ordinary, unnamed middle-aged woman who awakens to find she is the last living human being. Surmising her solitude is the result of a too successful military experiment, she begins the terrifying work of not only survival, but self-renewal. The Wall is at once a simple and moving talk – of potatoes and beans, of hoping for a calf, of counting matches, of forgetting the taste of sugar and the use of one’s name – and a disturbing meditation on 20th century history.

Reading time 4 mins

I am almost haunted by this book. The main character echoes through my head with her strength through adversity. It is not what I expected, it a genius what-if that I can’t get out of my heart.


The woman in this tale is unlike any, or maybe it is just that she is every woman.

She finds herself trapped in a hunting lodge after an unexplainable “wall” has come down around her. She is all alone, except for the animals she cares for. A woman past her prime with kids grown and gone. All she has is memories and new responsibilities. At the core of this story is a woman who knows life must go on. She teaches herself how to stay alive. She suffers great loses and learns things the hard way. She writes her memoir for no one, she writes it all down for us to read and try to make sense of it. She is no hero, she is a survivor.

I realized I had to do something, and ordered Lynx to sit. Then I carefully approached the invisible obstruction with outstretched hands and felt my way along it until I bumped into the last rock of the gorge. I couldn’t get any further on that side. On the other side of the road I got as far as the stream, and only now did I notice that the stream was slightly dammed and was flooding its banks. Yet it wasn’t carrying that much water. It had been dry all April and the snow had already thawed. On the other side of the wall – I’ve grown used to calling the thing the wall, because I had to give it some name or other now that it was there – on the other side, then, the bed of the stream was almost dry, and then the water flowed on in a trickle. t had obviously burrowed its way through the porous limestone. So the wall couldn’t extend deep into the earth. A fleeting relief flashed through me. I didn’t want to cross the blocked stream. There was no reason to believe the wall suddenly stopped, because then it would have been easy for Hugo and Luise to get back.

Suddenly I was struck by what might have been unconsciously worrying me the whole time: the fact that the road was entirely deserted. Someone would have raised the alarm ages ago. IT would have been natural for the villagers to gather inquisitively by the wall. Even if none of them had discovered the wall, Hugo and Luise would surely have bumped into it. The fact that there was not a single person to be seen struck me as even more puzzling than the wall.

I began to shiver in the bright sunshine. The first little farmhouse, only a cottage, in fact, was just around the next corner. If I crossed the stream and climbed up the mountain pasture a little, I would be able to see it.

I went back to Lynx and gave him a good talking to. He was very sensible, of course, and encouragement would have been much more appropriate. It was suddenly a great source of comfort to me that I had Lynx with me. I took off my shoes and socks and waded into the stream. On the other side the wall ran along the foot of the mountain pasture. At last I could see the cottage. It lay very still in the sunlight; a peaceful, familiar scene. A man stood by the spring, holding his right hand cupped halfway between the flowing water and his face. A clean old man. His braces hung around him like snakes, and he had rolled up his shirtsleeves. But his hand didn’t get to his face. He wasn’t moving at all.


There is no vanity in the woman’s story. She takes no credit for her many accomplishments. This is a tale where beauty and the pursuit of the opposite sex is not in the forefront. What a breathe of fresh air that a woman could just have an adventure without other women or a man to distract from the purpose. This book is timeless in that there is no technology to give it away. There is no time stamp on it. I was shocked to find out just how long ago this was written. Don’t let the stories age distract you. This woman could live at any time, in any country. I finished this book with a sense of awe. I knew there really wasn’t more, but I carry this character with me. She is the woman I hope I would be if I found myself all alone.

I bought this book for myself because it looked interesting. I am amazed what my curiosity finds me sometimes. This absolutely haunting tale is still fresh on my mind after a few months. It makes me question what I would do? How would I survive? Who would I miss? How much would I change? This book is my secret wish and my biggest fear.

My Rating


About the Author

MARLEN HAUSHOFER (1920–1970)  The Wall, first published in 1962, is considered her greatest literary achievement. She has been translated into many languages.

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