A deserting soldier treks through the torn-up countryside and abandoned villages, trying to distance himself from the atrocities of war.
An elderly man sits beneath lime trees, remembering his first sexual encounter one summer night with a female stranger who whispered another man's name.
A young woman takes up a job in a care home, spending monotonous days scrubbing floors and yearning to dance at the local nightclub.
The artist Franz Marc lives on in an imagined life as a patient at an asylum, before falling victim to Hitler's policy of Gnadentod.
Finally, a young Jewish girl, the life she once knew destroyed, holds her memories close as she finds refuge in wreckage of her homeland.
And throughout there is the shadowy presence of Viktor - one man or many? A looming figure in Germany's own reckoning with its past.
Through these five interconnected stories, Philippe Claudel reflects on Germany's complex history and the experiences of its people, dismantling the idea of "a nation" or "a people" and exploring the malleability of memory.
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