When Keith Stapperpfenning and his family give their grandfather the trip of a lifetime - an all-expenses-paid holiday to any destination in the world - the eccentric old man arbitrarily chooses China, and he asks Keith to accompany him. After Keith loses all the money for the journey at a casino, however, he goes into hiding - mostly under his desk - and his grandfather - equally uninterested in actually traveling to China - heads down the road to engage in a similar subterfuge. And it is here that the novel opens, with two men in hiding, mere miles apart. But when his grandfather dies unexpectedly, Keith is left to continue the farce alone. With the aid of a guidebook, Keith writes a series of letters home to his brothers and sisters, detailing their imaginary travels and the bizarre sights they see. These start off harmlessly, but before long he starts adding invented details: nonstop dental hygiene shows on television, dog vaccinations at the post office-and the letters get longer and longer.
Engaging, strange, and ultimately moving, this hilarious novel won Tilman Rammstedt the prestigious Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 2008 and confirmed him as one of Germany's most compelling writers.
Tilman Rammstedt was born in Bielefeld in 1975 and lives in Berlin. He has published three novels and one short story collection in German. Katy Derbyshire has translated books by Inka Parei, Simon Urban, Dorothee Elmiger, Sibylle Lewitscharoff, and many others. She lives in the UK.