Skip to main content

The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler

The simplicity of a novel set in the backdrop of a devastating war is refreshing. Life after all, goes on. People adapt to their situation and make the most of it. There is genuineness about this type of storytelling, told with an air of normalcy, intent on capturing a moment in time. 

Seventeen-year-old Franz Huchel finds himself in a bit of a conundrum when his mom’s wealthy lover, suddenly passes away. Young Franz has been used to a life of leisure until now in the little fishing village of Nussdorf am Attersee. 

"Unlike all the other lads, he didn't have to spend the whole day crawling around a salt mine or a dung heap somewhere, earning a meagre living. Instead he could stroll about the forest from dawn till dusk, bare his belly to the sun on one of those wooden jetties, or simply lie in bed when the weather was bad and lose himself in thoughts and dreams. All that was over now, though."

With Alois Preininger's untimely death, there are no more free rides for young Franz. 

Frau Huchel decides that it's time for her son to grow up and become a man. So she decides to send Franz to become an apprentice at one of her old friend’s tobacco shop in Vienna. 

It is 1937 Vienna, in a small tobacco shop owned by Otto Trsnyek, that an unlikely friendship develops between young Franz Huchel and Sigmund Freud. 

"He smells strange, this old man, thought Franz: of soap, onions, cigars, and somehow also, interestingly, of sawdust." 

Of course Franz had heard of Sigmund Freud, the "idiot doctor" he first described him as. The professors reputation extended to the farthest corners  of the earth. 

The juxtaposition of young innocent Franz, curious about the world, and Sigmund Freud, the  neurologist, best known for his theories of psychoanalysis, is a unexpected journey that is intriguing and delightful. This is a boy who's only left Salzkammergut twice in his life. Suddenly thrown into the heart of Vienna at the brink of a war, is bound to be something utterly different for Franz. 

The Tobacconist is a sweet, gentle storytelling about an unlikely friendship, set against the backdrop of the second world war.

--------------------------------------- The Tobacconist is published by House Of Anansi.

Blog post by @ShilpaRaikar (Creative and Social Media strategist, decor enthusiast and book lover, who also writes for a branding blog:, as well as a lifestyle blog: T: @SukasaStyle) 

For advertising opportunities on SukasaStyle and SukasaReads, contact