A novel of obsession—only partially erotic—that spans 50 years of German history, from World War II till the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Alexander von Brücken is old and dying, and as a final dramatic gesture he requests an unnamed novelist to listen to the story of his life and, after his death, to fictionalize these incidents and thus chronicle a lifelong obsession he had with Sofie Kurtz, a girl he originally met when they took shelter together during bombing raids. Several years after the war von Brücken takes over the family business, becomes a millionaire and tries to trace Sofie, who had been lost in postwar chaos. Eventually he discovers her in the village of Wuppertal, where she was living with her stepsister Birgit. Both girls are rivals for the affection of Rolf Schnitgerhans, an attractive, politically active suitor, and Rolf is happy to oblige the two of them. Shortly thereafter the girls’ fates take them down different paths: Birgit becomes a prominent lawyer, gradually becoming more “establishment” after a flirtation with radical politics, while Sofie tries to remain true to her radical roots. She’s finally arrested for taking part in a bank robbery intended to help fund her political leanings. The unfolding of Sofie’s life becomes for von Brücken an idée fixe, and he has Lukian Keferloher, one of his loyal employees, keep her under careful watch—though the plan is somewhat thwarted when Lukian falls in love with her. It turns out that von Brücken is at least as much in love with control as with Sofie and he discovers that “the eroticism of power has seldom been adequately celebrated by writers for the plain and simple reason that hardly any writers have ever possessed power…and felt its thrill for themselves.” By telling his story von Brücken tries to give a sense of that thrill.
Though occasionally slow-moving, this narrative explores major themes of obsession, passion and control.