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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Where Were You, Robert?
by Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Age Range: 12+
Fifteen-year-old Robert discovers that he can travel back through time. By staring
at the TV screen, a film, painting or photograph his vision blurs and he enters the
scene that he is looking at. A television documentary transports him to Stalin’s
Soviet Union in 1956, where he finds himself under suspicion of spying. As he
watches a film in Moscow, he finds himself on the other side of the world in
Australia in 1946. While looking at a photograph he ends up in his hometown in
Germany, sixteen years earlier where he meets his grandmother as a young girl.
Soon Robert is adrift in history, never sure where he will emerge next. With each journey there is a shift in time and Robert finds himself further and further away from his home and his own time. Finally he finds himself in seventeenth-century Amsterdam and can only escape by painting a picture from memory – a picture of his kitchen at home.
Where Were You, Robert? won the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation in 2003 for the translation by Anthea Bell.
(Outside In: Children’s Books in Translation, Milet, 2005)