A Sabbatical in Leipzig

By: Adrian Duncan

Publication Date: 6 February 2020


Adrian Duncan’s novel A Sabbatical in Leipzig was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2021

Michael, a retired engineer, has lived away from Ireland for most of his life and now resides alone in Bilbao after the death of his girlfriend, Catherine. Each day he listens to two versions of the same piece of music before walking the same route to visit Richard Serra’s enormous permanent installation, The Matter of Time, in the Guggenheim Museum. Over the course of 45 minutes before he leaves his apartment, Michael reflects on past projects and how they have endured, the landscape of his adolescence, and his relationship with Catherine, which acts as the marker by which he judges the passing of time.

Over the course of the narrative, certain fascinations crop up: electricity, porcelain, the bogland of his youth, a short story by Robert Walser, and a five-year period of prolonged mental agitation spent in Leipzig with Catherine. This ‘sabbatical’, caused by the stress of his job and the suicide of a former colleague, splits his career as an engineer into two distinct parts.

A Sabbatical in Leipzig is intensely realistic, mapped out like Michael’s intricate drawings. With a clear voice and precise, structured thoughts, we are brought from an empty landscape to envision the creation of structures in cities across Europe, from London to Leipzig and Bilbao. This narrator has left the void of his world in rural Ireland to build new environments elsewhere, yet remains connected to his homeland. Duncan’s second novel stands alone as a substantial and compelling work of literary fiction.


‘A book such as W.G. Sebald might have written, had he been an Irish Engineer. In precise and penetrating prose, this novel probes memory and absence, and offers a vivid evocation of how love and trouble, between them, can support a life and frame a world. A quietly compelling novel from a writer of real daring and poise.’ Vona Groarke

A Sabbatical in Leipzig is by turn poetic and forensic, exuberant and melancholy. At all times, it is an entirely riveting, deeply felt musing on intimacy, loneliness and the nature of perception itself.’ Sue Rainsford

The Life of Forms in Life: Niamh Campbell On Adrian Duncan’s “A Sabbatical in Leipzig” in Los Angeles Review of Books – Read here

‘You move through this book, as though at a contemporary art exhibition … It is slow and affecting and really quite beautiful.’ Niamh Donnelly, Irish Times

‘Duncan’s analytical prose and oblique approach to human relationships is both a relief and a recalibration of staid literary conventions we take for granted … haunting and devastating’ Dublin Review of Books

‘a haunted and haunting essay on loneliness … lingers long after the last few harrowing pages.’ Anne Cunningham

‘shades of Beckett [and] calls to mind WG Sebald … conjuring a deep and strange sense of stillness that hints at a discomfiting truth: this is a material world and we are merely passing through it.’ Houman Barekat, The Sunday Times

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Adrian Duncan is an artist and writer based in Ireland and Berlin. His debut novel Love Notes from a German Building Site was published by The Lilliput Press and Head of Zeus in 2019. It was shortlisted for the 2019 John McGahern Book Prize. He was shortlisted for the Emerging Writer Award at the inaugural 2020 Dalkey Literary Awards.  His first collection of short stories, Midfield Dynamo, was published in 2021. A Sabbatical in Leipzig was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Novel of the Year 2021 and co-published in the UK by Tuskar Rock Press in Novemeber 2022.

Also available as an ebook


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Weight 0.45 kg
Dimensions 136 × 216 mm


Publication Date

6 February 2020

Page Count


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