Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307265593, 592pp.
Publication Date: October 21, 2008
East Germany, January 1990. Enrico Türmer, man of the theater, secret novelist, turns his back on art and signs on to work at a newly started newspaper. Freed from the compulsion to describe the world, he plunges into everyday life. Under the guidance of his Mephisto, the ever-present Clemens von Barrista, the former aesthete suddenly develops worldly ambitions even he didn’t know he had.
This upheaval in our hero’s life, mirrored in the vaster upheaval gripping Germany itself after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the birth pangs of a reunified nation, is captured in the letters Enrico writes to the three people he loves most: his sister, Vera; his childhood friend Johann; and Nicoletta, the unattainable woman of his dreams. As he discovers capitalism and reports on his adventures as a businessman, he peels away the layers of his previous existence, in the process creating the thing he has dreamed of for so long—the novel of his own life, in whose facets contemporary history is captured. Thus Enrico comes to embody all the questionable aspects not only of life in the old Germany, but of life in the Germany just taking form.
Once again Ingo Schulze proves himself a master storyteller, with an inimitable power to reconjure the complete insanity of this wildest time in postwar German history. As its comic chronicler, he unfurls a panorama of a world in transformation—and the birth of a new era.
Ingo Schulze, born in Dresden in 1962, studied classical philology at the University of Jena. His first book, 33 Moments of Happiness, won two German literary awards, the prestigious Alfred Döblin Prize and the Ernst Willner Prize for Literature. He lives in Berlin.
“Ingo Schulze is an epic storyteller!” —Günter Grass
“Rumors, protests, paranoia, disbelief, the thrill of first seeing West German road signs—they’re all on the page with you-are-there clarity.”
“Powerful. . . . Schulze is determined to capture the energy—and mayhem—of his country’s historic transformation. . . . With engaging irony, [he asks] both what is gained and what is lost in such cultural transformations.”
—The Review of Contemporary Fiction
“An admirable work. . . . The reader sits open-mouthed, surprised, and delighted before this miracle of romantic poetry, philosophy of money, and epic strength.”
—Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich)
“Witty and elaborate.”
—The New Yorker
“A unique view of the German reunification.”
—Sacramento Book Review
“[Schulze’s] latest book may well be Germany’s best reunification novel to date. . . . Against an uncertain East German landscape of ambiguous opportunities—depicted with considerable sensitivity but little Ostalgie—Schulze expertly pulls his readers in opposite directions. . . . Exhilarating and perceptive.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Beguiling. . . . Schulze captures something ephemeral but critical about how the idealism that brought down the Wall also brought down itself.”
“Hugely ambitious. . . . Anyone who has spent time in a political movement, or in a start-up business, will recognize the comedy of egos with its cast of con men, hangers-on and the occasional genuine talent.”
—Kirkus (starred review)