Love Notes from a German Building Site

Adrian Duncan

‘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.’

– Colm Tóibín


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 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.


Shortlisted for the inaugural John McGahern Annual Book Prize.


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

WINNER OF THE INAUGURAL JOHN MCGAHERN ANNUAL BOOK PRIZE, 2020

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