WILLENBROCK by Christoph Hein


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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.).

An engineer from the former East Germany, Bernd Willenbrock lost his job when the Wall came down and his factory couldn’t compete in the new climate of free markets and private capital. Bernd landed on his feet, however, and made enough money selling used cars (mainly to Russians, Poles, and Bulgarians) that he was able to commission a showroom for his business and bankroll a high-end boutique for his fashionista wife. As an Ossi (East German), Bernd is subject to the condescension of West Germans, so he has a soft spot in his heart for his Polish salesman Jurek and his largely Eastern European customers. But lately things have been getting out of hand. One morning Bernd comes to work to find that seven of his cars have been stolen overnight. The police are perfunctory and high-handed, so Bernd hires a nightwatchman—who is bound, gagged, and beaten by a gang of Russian car thieves during his first week on the job. The final straw comes when Bernd himself is nearly killed by a Russian burglar in his own home—and the police, after apprehending the man, merely deport him to Moscow. When one of Bernd’s Russian customers learns of the incident, he offers to have the man “taken care of” when he goes home, but the German in Bernd can’t bring himself to take the law in his own hands. The Russian insists on giving him a gun, however, and Bernd reluctantly accepts. Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do—even in Germany.

Interesting glimpse of daily life behind the ruins of the Iron Curtain, though a bit ponderous and overheated in the end.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 2003
ISBN: 0-8050-6731-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2003


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