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David Grossman

Fiction, 2011

FALLING OUT OF TIME is a genre-defying drama––part play, part prose, pure poetry––about bereaved parents setting out to reach their lost children. It begins in a small village, in a kitchen, where a man announces to his wife that he is leaving, embarking on a journey in search of their dead son. The man––called simply Walking Man––paces in ever-widening circles around the town. One after another, all manner of townsfolk fall into step with him (the Net-Mender, the Midwife, the Elderly Math Teacher, even the Duke), each enduring his or her own loss. The walkers raise questions of grief and bereavement: Can death be overcome by an intensity of speech or memory? Is it possible, even for a fleeting moment, to call to the dead and free them from their death? Grossman’s answer to such questions is a hymn to these characters, who ultimately find solace and hope in their communal act of breaching death’s hermetic separateness.


For the reader, the solace is in their clamorous vitality, and in the gift of Grossman’s storytelling––a realm where loss is not merely an absence but a life force of its own.

”I learned that there are some situations where the only freedom left us is to describe … describe with the right words the fate that hits us. Sometimes, that can also be a way to escape being a victim.” – David Grossman on receiving the 2010 Frankfurt Peace Prize

Rights Sold:

Brazil: Companhia das Letras; Denmark: Forlaget Vandkunsten; France: Editions du Seuil; Germany: Hanser Verlag; Holland: Cossee; Israel: HaKibbutz Hameuhad; Italy: Mondadori; Korea: Chaek-Se-Sang; Norway: Agora; Poland: Swiat Ksiazki; Romania: Polirom; Serbia: Arhipelag; Spain: Lumen; Spain (Catalan): Ediciones 62; Sweden: Albert Bonniers; UK: Jonathan Cape; USA: Knopf Publishing;

Dramatic rights: France: TNT Productions; Germany: Deutsches Theater Berlin, Theater Krefeld; Holland Theater: Zeelandia; Israel (Tel Aviv): Gesher Theatre; Italy: Mismaondia; Sweden (Stockholm): Swedish National Theatre

USA: Theater J, Washington DC
Oratoria, Opera: Silkroad/Osvaldo Golijov (composer)


“With a strange and wonderful tale, Grossman challenges the boundaries separating life from death, sanity from madness. Announcing I have to go, a grief-stricken Israeli villager takes leave of his bewildered wife, embarking on a journey to there—an impossibly undefined place where he hopes to find and to speak with his dead son. As he sets out walking, in ever-widening circles around his village, the Walking Man becomes a Pied Piper of Bereavement, drawing behind him the Midwife, the Net-Mender, the Elderly Math Teacher, the Duke—all staggering under loads of sadness due to the loss of a loved one. Even the Town Chronicler—who narrates the bizarre quest—joins his distraught wife in the company following the Walking Man into a dreamscape where the deepest fears stirred by death collide with the most passionate hopes for life. Together these grim marchers unfold a dark colloquy—by turns heartrending and comforting—on what it means to love the departed, what it means to accept—or defy—death. Intensifying the pathos, deepening the soul-searching, husbands and wives repeatedly struggle to preserve their union despite sharply contrasting ways of dealing with their shared loss. A potent fusion of poetry, fiction, and drama sweeps readers into very deep waters!" – Bryce Christensen, Booklist (Starred review)

“Falling Out of Time is a precise literary investigation into the mourning of parents [for a child], an echoing cry of bereavement, whose power lies, paradoxically, in an abundant use of restraint and distancing … without even a smidgen of sentimentality. Grossman has succeeded in creating a disturbing, heartbreaking vision of mourning." – Maya Sela, Ha’aretz

“A searing narrative…The precision and sensory depth of Grossman’s language renders this unconventional work an unforgettable and magnificent document of suffering.” – Publishers Weekly

“Long after reading it, 'Falling Out of Time' lingers in the imagination as a mourner’s prayer, at once profoundly Hebraic and profoundly universal (I would be very much surprised if some of its hauntingly beautiful passages were not adopted for official rituals of mourning and liturgy in the future). Its meditative language is both unbearable and irresistible. Here are hard truths, generously bestowed by one of our wisest and most compassionate artists.

“This slim book’s dark music comes as close to Samuel Barber’s 'Adagio for Strings' as language can possibly aspire. Frequently heartbreaking, yet ultimately profoundly consoling, 'Falling Out of Time' is a triumphantly imaginative response to immeasurable grief and pain. A richly emotional, mystical and philosophical tapestry, it makes an urgent and eternal statement that deserves recognition among the greatest works in the brave and indispensable tradition of art that pushes back against catastrophe.” – Ranen Omer-Sherman, The Jewish Daily Forward

“Grossman’s lyrical approach to the silent suffering of mourning is both a literary study in processing grief and a reminder that healing often comes through the action of putting into words the pain we thought was unspeakable.” – Joshua Finnell, LIBRARY JOURNAL

“Grossman raises questions about the nature of grief and mourning and demonstrates, once again, his rare gift of storytelling, a realm where loss is not merely an absence but a life force of its own." Jewish Chronicle "A harrowing testimony to grief... It's a measure of Grossman's clarity of thought and his theatrical timing that one reaches its end and feels, in some small way, glad to have been in his characters' company however grim the road they travel.” – Rosemary Goring Glasgow Sunday Herald 

“On the page the book resembles a play, or a prose poem, possessing at times the qualities of a religious or mystical text... Falling Out of Time is short, and clearly a deeply personal book, but its importance and impact ought not to be underestimated.” – Ian Sansom, The Guardian 

“The greatest Israeli writer of his generation.” – Lucy Daniel, The Telegraph

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