**LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE**
Stefan Vogel, a young man growing up in the former East Germany, longs for love, glory and freedom - yearnings that express themselves in a lifelong fantasy of going to America. The hopeless son of an ambitious mother and a kind but unlucky diplomat, Stefan lurches between his budding, covert interests - girls and Romantic poetry - to find himself embroiled in dissident politics, which oddly seems to offer both.
In time, by a series of blackly comic and increasingly dangerous manoeuvres, he contrives to make his fantasy come true, finding himself not only in the country of his dreams, but also married to the woman he idolises. America seems everything he expected and meanwhile his secrets are safely locked away behind the Berlin Wall.
A new life of unbounded bliss seems to have been granted to him. And then that life begins to fall apart...
Lasdun's acclaimed first novel, The Horned Man, followed three short story collections and several books of poems. This second full-length outing seductively and stylishly dissects a life of Cold War fabrication told in flashback. Stefan Vogel, a narrator as insinuatingly unreliable as one of Patricia Highsmith's blithe psychopaths, grows up in the grim fantasyland of Brezhnev-era East Germany, the son of parents whose scuttled diplomatic ambitions for a "better life" in the West consume him. A minor dissident, he is sprung, along with wife-to-be Inge, from an East German prison by a West German government intent on making a showpiece of him. Instead, he and Inge emigrate to the U.S. In the picaresque process of realizing his dream of America, his succession of identities and impostures eerily shadow that of the waning Cold War: eager apparatchik, exotic poet, noble dissident and last year's news. Of course, America turns out to be as ridden with mendacity as his vanished homeland, and after five years in New York City and 15 in self-imposed upstate exile, the labyrinth of lies (the seven of the title come from Martin Luther) begins to close in on his orderly life and marriage. Sly, witty and just allegorical enough to make one reflect on one's own deceptions, Lasdun's latest is a bracing and accomplished entertainment.