THE TANGO PLAYER by Christoph Hein


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 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.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-374-27252-2
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1991