The Old King cover
Arno Geiger

The Old King in His Exile

Shortlisted for the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize for its translation

Shortlisted for the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for its translation

What makes us who we are? Arno Geiger’s father was never an easy man to know and when he developed Alzheimer’s, Arno realised he was not going to ask for help. ‘As my father can no longer cross the bridge into my world, I have to go over to his.’ So Arno sets out on a journey to get to know him at last. Born in 1926 in the Austrian Alps, into a farming family who had an orchard, kept three cows, and made schnapps in the cellar, his father was conscripted into World War II as a ‘schoolboy soldier’ – an experience he rarely spoke about, though it marked him. Striking up a new friendship, Arno walks with him in the village and the landscape they both grew up in and listens to his words, which are often full of unexpected poetry.

Through his intelligent, moving and often funny account, we begin to see that whatever happens in old age, a human being retains their past and their character. Translated into nearly 30 languages, The Old King in His Exile will offer solace and insight to anyone coping with a loved one’s aging.

Read an Excerpt
EBook: £5

More Info

  • Read more about Arno Geiger on our author page. Arno Geiger is a German Book Prize winner and this memoir The Old King in His Exile is his bestselling book. Worldwide, it has sold over 1 million copies.
  • Arno Geiger talks on Ampersand about writing The Old King in His Exile.
  • Translated by Stefan Tobler from the German (Der alte König in seinem Exil).
  • If you had subscribed to And Other Stories by 11 April 2016, you would have received a first edition copy of The Old King in His Exile – in which all subscribers are thanked by name – before its official publication. To receive up to 6 And Other Stories titles per year, find out about subscribing to here.
Print status: Available
Author: Arno Geiger
Translator: Stefan Tobler
Original language: German
Format: B-format paperback with flaps
Publication date (UK): 12 January 2017
Publication date (US): 11 May 2021
ISBN: 9781908276889
Ebook ISBN: 9781908276896
Availability: UK, Europe and Commonwealth (excl. Canada)
Number of pages: 192


Catherine Taylor
Financial Times

‘This quietly devastating memoir . . . charts with considerable discernment not only [Geiger’s] father’s decline but the late-blooming closeness of their relationship. Tobler’s restrained translation captures the acuity and wit of the original. As a writer, Geiger’s instinct is to make sense of language, to find a meaningful literary parallel even in his father’s simplest comments.’

Times Literary Supplement

‘Poignantly rendered . . . There is a lathe-like precision to Geiger’s writing. The psychological insights in The Old King in His Exile are acute.’

The Spectator

‘A tender, clear-eyed account . . . This is not an Alzheimer’s handbook, but it does contain useful advice.’

The Sunday Express S Magazine

‘A delightful memoir of dementia sounds impossible until you read The Old King In His Exile, now available in English thanks to this winning translation. A book that will warm you right through.’

The Scotsman

‘Life-affirming, funny and generous; a roadmap to help navigate the most disorienting territory. [Geiger] finds a way, in spite of the disease, to connect with his father and in doing so he understands something more clearly about life. We’re fortunate that Geiger has been generous enough to share these precious lessons with the rest of us.’

Sally Magnusson, author of Where Memories Go: Why Dementia Changes Everything

‘A wise and beautiful story of dementia and a family learning how to love.’

Adrian Nicole Leblanc, author of Random Family

‘How do we keep one another’s company?  How might our lives unfold alongside those of our parents with Alzheimer’s nearby? In Arno Geiger’s exquisite memoir, he lets us into the private and sometimes sacred space he found in the company of his father—a relationship nurtured by his own willingness to share a mutual solitude, and to visit those places where his father’s spirit was broken and where it thrived. The tender stories in The Old King in His Exile hold the quiet love between these men, and invite the reader to apprehend more of what it can mean, even in our final days, to be alive.’

Martin Chalmers

Apart from the decline of the author's father and how a family does and doesn't cope with it, it's also about the decline of village life and about the profound impact of war on a place.’

Robert Seethaler

‘There are books that speak directly from one person to another. The Old King in His Exile is one of them. Every life is worth living, as Arno Geiger shows in his wise and deeply moving book about his father and Alzheimer’s.’

Denis Scheck

‘A beautiful, entirely unsentimental book describing his father’s dementia . . . a superbly written book.’

Felicitas von Lovenberg
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

‘A profound, distinctive and timeless investigation into what concerns every one of us: aging and illness, home and family. A meditation on the things we find hard to deal with. A great work of literature about what makes life worth living no matter what.’  

Elmar Krekeler
Die Welt

‘A book about the search for a lost world, a lost home and a character presumed lost, as well as about a rediscovered relationship. A powerful, grown-up, curious, and touchingly delightful book.’

Meike Fessmann
Der Tagesspiegel

‘A magical work. True to life and yet effortlessly artful.’

Judith von Sternburg
Frankfurter Rundschau

‘Arno Geiger’s extraordinary skill as an author is crystal clear in this book. He demonstrates an astonishing degree of empathy for the life of another person. A love of the people about whom he writes, a love that doesn’t blinker him but frees him to see what is essential.’

Martin Ebel

‘Alzheimer’s forces on people the most radical version of an experience we all share in a more diluted, manageable form: that the world changes, that the conditions we know disappear, that we have to keep up and find that sometimes easy, sometimes difficult. The person with dementia can’t cope with the changes any more. The justified success of Geiger’s book is in part because it lets people understand this better, and so they love it.’

Booksellers on The Old King in His Exile

‘With humility and uncanny insight, Arno Geiger shines a pure and natural light upon a subject we too often shy away from, turning it into something very positive and uplifting. This book is a gift to all of us who struggle with life and death and all its jagged edges.’ Ray Mattinson, Blackwell, Oxford ‘A moving and revealing depiction of the reality of dementia. Told tenderly with love and respect, it is a celebration of humanity in difficult times and a testament to the importance of understanding one another.’ Claire Grint, Cogito Books, Hexham ‘A deeply affecting examination of the hope to be found amidst illness and loss. Geiger writes with clear eyes and an open heart.’ Marion Rankine, Foyles Charing Cross, London ‘Geiger writes about family, old age and illness with elegant poignancy and the kind of wisdom that only comes from painful experience, but there is strength and hope here too. This is writing that warms your heart even as it breaks it.’ Jenny Buckland, Heywood Hill bookshop, London 'I loved everything about The Old King in His Exile and read it in one sitting. A really moving (both sad and joyous) treat.’ Richard Reynolds, Heffers Bookshop, Cambridge ‘A love letter from a son to his father, The Old King in His Exile completely avoids sentimentalism, yet is never lacking in humour and compassion. It made me realise that the sum of a life is the whole life and not just its ending.’Claire Harris, Lutyens & Rubinstein, London ‘Arno Geiger invites us to share in precious time spent with his father and it feels like an honour to do so. Always honest about the brutal realities of dementia, Geiger nevertheless looks for the man and not the illness. With prose so beautifully simple yet striking it begs you to read passages aloud, I doubt there is anybody who could read this book and not be deeply moved.’ Danielle Culling, Mr B’s Emporium, Bath 'This book is startlingly unsentimental, and yet a painful and touchingly realised picture of dementia, and the way it alters relationships between the sufferer and the people closest to them. It is incredibly relatable and emotionally provocative, but it also becomes a more general meditation on life and the continuous process of ageing.’ Lewis Wood, Topping & Co, St Andrew’s