Love Notes from a German Building Site

By: Adrian Duncan


Paul, a young Irish engineer, follows his girlfriend to Berlin, and begins work on the renovation of a commercial building in Alexanderplatz. Wrestling with a new language, on a German building site running behind schedule, and with a relationship in flux, he becomes increasingly untethered.

Set against the structural evolution of a sprawling city, this meditation on language, memory and yearning is underpinned by the site’s physical reality. As the narrator explores the mind’s fragile architecture, he begins to map his own strange geography through a series of notebooks, or ‘Love Notes’.

This is at once a treatise on language, memory, building and desire, relayed in translucent Sebaldian prose in a voice new to Irish fiction.

Adrian Duncan is a Berlin-based Irish visual artist who originally trained as a structural engineer. His short-form fiction has appeared in The Stinging Fly, gorse, The Moth, The Dublin Review and Meridian (US), among others. His feature film on Irish engineer Peter Rice, co-directed with Feargal Ward, premiered at the Dublin International Film Festival 2019. His second novel A Sabbatical in Leipzig was published by The Lilliput Press in 2020.

“Love Notes from a German Building Site is written in spare, exact prose. Set mainly on a building site in Berlin, it captures the urgencies and exigencies of construction, as well as the close and strained personal relationships that develop between workers over time.

Duncan writes beautifully about cold weather, gruff manners, systems of hierarchy. He also writes beautifully about precious time off, or the occasions when memory takes over.

As well as being a portrait of work, this novel offers a picture of a sensibility – Paul, an Irishman in Berlin, conscientious, often uneasy, often bad-tempered, but ready to be transformed by his relationship with Evelyn, who travels with him, and by time spent in galleries.

At the heart of the novel is the question of language, German as a set of signs, but also the world itself as a set of signs waiting to be interpreted by the protagonist, who is created in this book with an acute and painstaking emotional accuracy.”


Shortlisted for the inaugural John McGahern Annual Book Prize.

Shortlisted for the Emerging Writer Award at the inaugural 2020 Dalkey Literary Awards.

Also available as an ebook

2 reviews for Love Notes from a German Building Site

  1. Publicity

    Excellent exploration of life, from the point of view of an engineer working on a hurried building project in Berlin. Dives into a wide range of themes from male friendship, the role of work, the world of engineering and language while giving a great snapshot of modern Berlin and Ireland. The first novel from a new Irish author and definitely a fresh voice in literary fiction. – John

  2. Publicity

    ‘A rare book – a debut novel that has the capacity to become a major work of art. It is the best book I have read in years – it contains that magical balance of mastery and uncertainty and recklessness that creates something new in literature, something that can last, and something that needs to get out to the world.’ – Greg Baxter, author of Munich Airport

    ‘With elegance and precision, this beautiful book shows the forces which act on the structures of buildings and those which impact on relationships. Duncan’s Berlin building site is, perhaps surprisingly, a brilliantly compelling place, the complications of construction converging with the complex experiences of those who work there.’ – Wendy Erskine, author of Sweet Home

    ‘Love Notes from a German Building Site is a strange, oblique, haunted work of quiet meditative intelligence. Adrian Duncan evokes the building of cities and the dislocated, phantasmic lives that unfold amid their looming geometries. His debut novel contains some of the finest writing on love I’ve read in recent memory.’ – Rob Doyle, author of Here are the Young Men

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Weight .3 kg
Dimensions 136 × 216 mm
Publication Date

4 April 2019



Page Count


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