'Already hailed as a Cold War classic.' Boyd Tonkin, Independent Books of the Year
'Utterly absorbing, funny and humane. A romp through a twisted century in the heart of Europe.' Anna Funder, author of Stasiland
International bestseller and Winner of the German Book Prize
A sweeping story of one family over four generations in East Germany: the intertwining of love, life and politics under the GDR regime.
Ruge's evocative family chronicle spans nearly 60 years, moving fluidly from 2001 to 1952, with several stops in between. In the small German town of Neuendorf in 2001, elderly Kurt Umnitzer is paid one last visit, before senility completely overtakes him, by his son Alexander, who himself has recently been diagnosed with cancer. As Alexander sorts through Kurt's belongings and photographs, he delves into the family's history. Alexander goes to Mexico to learn more about his father, while the story travels back to the 1950s, which find Alexander's grandmother Charlotte and her husband, Wilhelm, living as loyal communists in East Berlin, along with Kurt and his wife, Irina. Cuba in the 1960s, Russia in the 1970s, and the fall of the Berlin Wall provide further backdrops and catalysts for the Umnitzer family's troubled journey through the 20th century. Ruge tends to focus on his scenes, which are heavy on both seemingly insignificant detail (the opening sentence puts Alexander on "a buffalo leather sofa") and plot, combining dense, full-bodied storytelling with an enlightening sense of modern history.