Books by Christoph Hein

WILLENBROCK by Christoph Hein
Released: Sept. 16, 2003

"Interesting glimpse of daily life behind the ruins of the Iron Curtain, though a bit ponderous and overheated in the end."
A law-abiding Berliner is pushed over the edge by the Russian punks who have taken over his town in this German Dirty Harry by Hein (The Tango Player, 1999, etc.). Read full book review >
THE TANGO PLAYER by Christoph Hein
Released: Jan. 1, 1992

A chilling depiction of the Kafkaesque dimensions of life in Eastern Europe from prominent German playwright and novelist Hein, echoing the harsh social analysis of his earlier novel, The Distant Lover (1989). In the Prague Spring of 1968, Dallow is a young professor of 19th-century history just released from prison, having served a term of almost two years for playing a tango with lyrics deemed harmful to the state. Although he was recruited only as a temporary pianist for the student theater group responsible, Dallow shared their sentence, and now emerges into life only to find it distasteful and himself unable to function. His Institute in Leipzig no longer has a position for him, and his efforts to find work as a truckdriver are unrewarded. Dogged by government agents who promise to help if he'll play their game, and forced by the woman he's taken up with to come to terms with his hostility—which occasionally manifests itself in a loss of control over his hands and caused him to almost strangle the judge who presided over his trial—he seeks refuge as a waiter at a distant resort. Completely uninterested in developments in Prague, Dallow uses the fact that beds are scarce to accommodate a succession of young women, dallying until word arrives that his nemesis at the Institute has been politically incorrect in rejecting news reports of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and that Dallow has been tapped to replace him. At once a historical curiosity in its resurrection of a totalitarian regime recently put to rest and a damning assessment of the mind-set of those waiting to assume power. A timely, disturbing vision of social and moral collapse. Read full book review >
THE DISTANT LOVER by Christoph Hein
Released: April 19, 1989

East German Hein's first novel to appear in English—about an affair between a woman who carefully controls her life and a married man addicted to danger—is yet another (albeit successful) exploration of modern existential angst. Claudia, a physician who is divorced and childless, fears "established familiarity" of every sort; but then she meets Henry, an architect, and they have a present-tense affair, meeting approximately twice a week until his death a year later in a fistfight. The story opens with his funeral, and backtracks. After Henry arrogantly walks into her life, narrator Claudia takes us with her on her rounds: she photographs empty landscapes as a hobby; meets patients, and associates with colleagues, reporting on them with clinical precision but with little if any emotional connection; visits her parents, her aunt Gerda and uncle Paul; becomes nearly hysterical when Henry admits he's married; and relives her first marriage with its several abortions. As the narrative progresses, it becomes more explanatory as Claudia analyzes herself: "I hadn't realized that I never photographed people." She begins to miss Henry, to long for him when he's absent. With him, she goes to G., her childhood home, and recalls the religious Katharina, her best friend whom she publicly renounced. (Politics and personal history dovetail nicely here.) She also realizes that her relationship with Henry has avoided depth; but, after living through his death, and through other less catastrophic moments, Claudia remains unredeemed, still alienated from herself and still denying it. A derivative but honest clinical portrait of modern emotional isolation—which is especially endemic, the narrative implies, to the professions. Read full book review >