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The Paper Man

The Paper Man

by Billy O’Callaghan

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Product Details


ISBN: 978-1-56792-785-6
Pages: 248
Size: 6" x 9"
Published: March 2023
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“History’s inherited burden presses firmly on the characters in Billy O’Callaghan’s The Paper Man . . . O’Callaghan moves his narrative deftly.”—New York Times

A deeply moving interwar romance set between 1930s Austria and 1980s Ireland, based on a real-life unsolved mystery.

1930s Austria. Vienna is a bustling, cosmopolitan city on the brink of war. Matthias Sindelar is an internationally renowned soccer player known as “The Paper Man” because of his because of his effortless weave across the field. When Sindelar speaks out against Hitler, his fame can’t protect him from being placed under Gestapo surveillance. Meanwhile, Sindelar falls in love with a young Jewish girl named Rebekah. As the atmosphere in Vienna darkens under the Nazi regime, Rebekah flees to relatives in Cork, Ireland. Only after she arrives there does she realize she is pregnant with Sindelar’s child. The following year, at the age of 35, The Paper Man is found dead in his apartment.

1980s Ireland. In the Jewish Quarter of Cork, Rebekah’s son Jack Shine discovers a bundle of German letters and newspaper clippings tied with a ribbon while sorting his mother’s belongings. With the help of his German-speaking father-in-law, Jack translates the letters and attempts to piece together his family history and, hopefully, solve the mystery of his father’s identity.

Based on real people and true events, The Paper Man is the story of twentieth-century Europe, the Holocaust, the cost of fame, and love against the odds.


“History’s inherited burden presses firmly on the characters in Billy O’Callaghan’s The Paper Man in which the discovery of a hidden cache of love letters pries open the secret past of a long-dead Austrian immigrant....O’Callaghan moves his narrative deftly between the Vienna of the Anschluss, rural Austria before the Nazi takeover and early 1980s Ireland, where Jack is stunned to learn that his father was a bona fide hero, captain of the Austrian national soccer team, “the game’s maestro,” who retired rather than play for the conquering Germans.”
The New York Times
“Billy O’Callaghan’s writing is powerfully emotional and wholly captivating from page one. The Paper Man is the best book yet by a truly gifted Irish writer who deserves to be better-known in the U.S.—and after this novel, I bet he will be.” —Gabriel Byrne, author of Walking with Ghosts
“O’Callaghan’s storytelling is magnetic. He brings to life 1930s Austria and 1980s Ireland in this mesmerizing tale of love, soccer, and family secrets.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
The Paper Man is a haunting story gorgeously crafted with subtle themes of identity, nationalism, dislocation, lost love, and the price of fame. O’Callaghan’s sentences are sonorous and poetic; no detail is left unattended in his masterfully fluid prose.” —New York Journal of Books
 “In O’Callaghan’s haunting historical novel, decades-old wartime secrets are revealed. The poignant and passionate The Paper Man covers lost love, anguished lives, and the discovery of an enduring heritage.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Imaginative, beautifully told fiction . . . There are moments—escalating as we reach the end—when the reader will want to wipe away a tear.” —The Spectator (Australia)
Author: Billy O’Callaghan
Billy O’Callaghan is the two novels from Godine: Life Sentences and The Paper Man. He is also the author of four short story collections (In Exile, In Too Deep, The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind, and The Boatman) and the novels The Dead House and My Coney Island Baby. His work has been translated into a dozen languages and earned him numerous honours, including three Bursary Awards for Literature from the Arts Council of Ireland and, in 2013, a Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Award for the Short Story of the Year. His short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in literary journals and magazines around the world, including: Absinthe: New European Writing, Agni, Bellevue Literary Review, Chattahoochee Review, Confrontation, Fiddlehead, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Kenyon Review, Kyoto Journal, London Magazine, Los Angeles Review, Narrative, Ploughshares, Salamander, and Saturday Evening Post. Mr. O’Callaghan lives in Cork, Ireland.