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THE VALLEY OF UNKNOWING by Philip Sington Kirkus Star


by Philip Sington

Pub Date: Dec. 3rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-393-23933-1
Publisher: Norton

Amadeus meets The Lives of Others in a compelling story of jealousy and betrayal behind the Iron Curtain.

Political and personal limitations shape this subtle novel, by English writer Sington (Zoia’s Gold, 2005, etc.), which balances serious and menacing questions of moral compromise with ironic comments on Actually Existing Socialism. Bruno Krug, author of The Orphans of Neustadt, has followed up that international best-seller with “twenty years of mediocrity,” but when his publisher hands him an untitled manuscript to read, he encounters the brilliantly subversive sequel he never wrote. This work, by arrogant young Wolfgang Richter, arouses not only Krug’s admiration, but also his envy, and he passes on his rival’s name to his secret police “handlers.” Soon, Richter is dead, apparently of meningitis. Krug, meanwhile, has fallen in love with Theresa, a young Austrian musician who knew Richter too. Theresa and Krug become lovers; then she finds the manuscript and assumes Krug wrote it. Unable to destroy the brilliant book, Krug allows Theresa to smuggle it into the West, where it is published under her name and is massively successful. Finally, a crisis of guilt forces Krug to make a thrillerlike attempt to set the record straight.

Atmospheric, poignant, witty, but mournful too, Sington’s novel cleverly considers what might have been the back story to real-life tragedies.