Hans Breuer, Austria’s only wandering shepherd, is also a Yiddish folksinger. He walks the Alps, shepherd’s stick in hand, singing lullabies to his 625 sheep. Sometimes he even gives concerts in historically anti-Semitic towns, showing slides of the flock as he belts out Yiddish ditties.
When New York-based writer Sam Apple hears about this one-of-a-kind eccentric, he flies overseas and signs on as a shepherd’s apprentice. For thoroughly urban, slightly neurotic Sam, stumbling along in borrowed boots and burdened with a lot more baggage than his backpack, the task is far from a walk in Central Park. Demonstrating no immediate natural talent for shepherding, he tries to earn the respect of Breuer’s sheep, while keeping a safe distance from the shepherd’s fierce herding dogs.
As this strange and hilarious adventure unfolds,the unlikely duo of Sam and Hans meander through a paradise of woods and high meadows toward awkward encounters with Austrians of many stripes. Apple is determined to find out if there are really as many anti-Semites in Austria as he fears and to understand how Hans, who grew up fighting the lingering Nazism in Vienna, became a wandering shepherd. What Apple discovers turns out to be far more fascinating than he had imagined.
With this odd and wonderful book, Sam Apple joins the august tradition of Tony Horwitz and Bill Bryson. Schlepping Through the Alps is as funny as it is moving.
About the Author
SAM APPLE, who grew up in Houston, is a graduate of the creative nonfiction MFA program at Columbia University. Apple’s writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times,Forward, and The Jerusalem Report as well as on Salon.com. He currently lives in Brooklyn and is a contributing book editor at Nerve.
Advance praise for Schlepping Through the Alps
“This marvelously alert, one-of-a-kind book fascinates by virtue of its eccentric honesty, humor, warmth, and intelligence. Sam Apple’s writing style sparkles, and the two brilliantly achieved, richly sympathetic characterizations at the heart of the book–the singing shepherd and the author himself–make for a dazzlingly satisfying read. I absolutely loved it.” –PHILLIP LOPATE
“At its best, Apple’s narrative voice is as grave as W.G. Sebald’s while as self-deprecating as a poetic version of Woody Allen’s. Europe in the wake of the Holocaust is risky material. I know of no other American of Apple’s generation writing non-fiction who has attempted as subtle and oblique an approach as this.” –HONOR MOORE, author of The White Blackbird
“In this wonderful book, Sam Apple has written a brilliantly comic and very dark pastorale about shepherds, Nazis and Jews, modern-day Austria, love and fidelity, and he has done it with such subtlety–with bright colors at the center and darkness around all the edges–that the effect is quite singular. I have never read a book quite like this, and I loved it; it’s that simple.” –CHARLES BAXTER, author of Saul and Patsy: A Noveland Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction