Krauß, Irma

Das Wolkenzimmer (The Room in the Clouds)

Cbj Verlag, August 2007, 320 pp.
ISBN: 978-3-570-13271-5
(For readers of 12+)


Veronika has made up her mind. She will run up the steps of the church tower but not use them to come down. Her boyfriend Mattis has left her in the lurch, going off to America to study for a year and certain not to come back to her, and a general despair has descended. But as the breathless eighteen-year-old reaches the top of the building she realises one thing: she has reckoned without the aged tower-keeper, an American called James Mayne, who lives an austere and solitary life, sleeps in a simple chamber, and spends his days in a monotonous routine of making weather observations for the met office and selling tickets to tourists. Who is he, she suddenly wonders, and why does he live such a life? Such is the beginning of an absorbing relationship that takes in two world wars and causes Veronika to adopt a very different view of life to the one she formerly held.

Veronika’s parents aren’t expecting her home for three weeks (Mattis was to have taken her to Italy), and as she follows Mr Mayne, who has reluctantly agreed to take her in, and gets used to the silence and slow passing of time, a new mood takes over from the despondency that followed her despair. Why did Mr Mayne, eight years ago, leave America to live in this solitary place? Why does he pick little stones from the walls and collect them in a jar? And what connection does he have with the one-armed tower keeper living here decades ago who hid a Jewish boys from the Nazis? Through Mr Mayne’s initially very enigmatic comments and through the chapters focussing on the perspective of the ten-year-old boy sixty years ago, Veronika and the reader gradually find answers to these questions.

Irma Krauss has revealed that this latest young-people’s novel took her five years to write and means more to her than any other of her books. This shows in the elaborate composition and narrative technique but not at all in the language, which is wonderfully clear and unlaboured. Here are Nazi horrors but also warmth of heart, loyalty and almost reluctant idealism. A haunting morality tale on a harrowing subject with the sensitivity it requires, but also the directness, and with a respect for the readership’s ability to digest difficult truths.

‘Irma Krauß is a master of shifting perspectives…stirring literature that makes you think.’Süddeutsche Zeitung, on Rabentochter


Irma Krauß born in 1949, was a teacher of both primary and secondary pupils before she turned her hand to writing when her three children were older. She has written a great variety of books for children and young adults and in 1998 was awarded the coveted Peter Härtling Prize. Irma Krauß lives near Augsburg in southern Germany.

Previous works include:
Meerhexe (2001); Kurz vor morgen (1999); Rabentochter (2000)


Application for assistance with translation costs – Germany

Translation rights available from:
cbj Verlag, Verlagsgruppe Random House GmbH
Neumarkter Str. 28
81673 Munich, Germany
Tel: +49 89 4136-3106
Contact: Claudia Hartwig

cbj Verlag has been publishing literature for young readers since 1835. Today the firm offers a multifaceted program of high-quality books for children and young adults: picture books, delightfully designed pre-reading and first-reading books, page-turners and literary fiction, informative non-fiction, and creative activity books.