Trains of Europe

Trains of Europe

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By John Holten

9 Illustrative stamps by Adam Fearon

Like Cocteau running the film strip backwards to make shredded flowers whole, dead loved ones live again, Holten reverses the end of time itself, to wonderful effect.

― Tom McCarthy, author of The Making of Incarnation and Remainder

The Trains of Europe is a brilliant, gripping, portentous, strangely tender novel, ingeniously composed.

― Sara Baume, author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither and Seven Steeples

A love story wrapped up in a post-apocalyptic survival narrative, The Trains of Europe is a novel told backwards, which invites the reader to fill in the blanks around humanity’s notions of unfettered progress.

William and Sybille are a young couple who arrive in Berlin sometime at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. They move through the city, experience the vagaries of being in love and conceive a child but when a great disruption occurs they are forced to rely on each other in a world no longer recognisable, making them in turn strangers to one another.

In The Trains of Europe we’re introduced to a world without the ability to harness energy. Without electricity almost all aspects of life are seen anew, not least our ability to relate to one another — and our belief in progress.

As the novel brings us out of a broken future toward a unified present, creating a puzzle for the reader to enjoy, we’re introduced to three Norse deities. Their songs appear between the receding chapters and recount how the development of train travel brought notions of progress and modernity, entropy and time’s arrow, to a world hurtling toward catastrophe.

Designed by Form & Konzept, the book has nine stamp illustrations by artist Adam Fearon.

John Holten is a novelist. His two novels The Readymades (2011) and Oslo, Norway (2015) were published by Broken Dimanche Press, which he co-founded in Berlin in 2009. His writing has been published in frieze, gorse, The Stinging Fly, Electric Literature among other places. Over the years he has collaborated with many visual artists with literary and text additions to their work, as well as exhibiting and performing his own visual, text and codex works in gallery settings.

Adam Fearon lives and works in Berlin, Germany. He studied at the National College of Art & Design, Dublin and Städelschule, Frankfurt. He has exhibited widely, including at Visual Tendencies, Berlin, Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, Ireland, Harbinger, Reyjavik and the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Germany. In 2020 he was a recipient of the Arts Council of Ireland's Next Generation Artist award.