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Pavel and I

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An electrifying, suspenseful novel set during the winter of 1946-47, one of the coldest on record, Pavel & I unfolds against the tattered social fabric of postwar Berlin. Pavel Richter, a decommissioned GI, finds himself at odds with a rogue British army colonel and a Soviet general when a friend deposits the frozen body of a dead Russian spy in his apartment. So begins the race to take possession of the spy's secret, a race that threatens Pavel's friendship with a street orphan named Anders and his budding ...

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Pavel and I

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An electrifying, suspenseful novel set during the winter of 1946-47, one of the coldest on record, Pavel & I unfolds against the tattered social fabric of postwar Berlin. Pavel Richter, a decommissioned GI, finds himself at odds with a rogue British army colonel and a Soviet general when a friend deposits the frozen body of a dead Russian spy in his apartment. So begins the race to take possession of the spy's secret, a race that threatens Pavel's friendship with a street orphan named Anders and his budding love for Sonia, his enigmatic upstairs neighbor. As the action hurtles toward catastrophe, the hunt merges with one for the truth about the novel's protagonist: Who exactly is Pavel Richter?

Praise for Pavel & I:

"Pavel & I has plenty of plot (including a dead midget in a suitcase), a crowd of desperate characters (including a whore with a heart of tarnished gold) and an unusual narrative scheme-but most of all, it has atmosphere, a vividly rendered time and place: Berlin in the frigid winter of 1946-47, rubble, starvation and no brakes on anyone's instinct for self-preservation."-New York Observer

"The novel is grotesque, sometimes funny, and completely chilling, a wonderful re-creation of the Europe of 1946. Dan Vyleta is a name to watch."-Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Impressive … Readers in search of a good story will find one here."-Denver Post

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Set during the frigid Berlin winter of 1946, Vyleta's wily debut follows the exploits of an American GI, a German street urchin and an enigmatic prostitute as they struggle to survive both the cold and the looming Cold War. Pavel Richter, an American soldier who remained in Berlin after the war, is shocked when his friend Boyd White shows up at his door with a dead German midget. After agreeing to help Boyd hide the body, Pavel and his friend Anders are thrust into the middle of a conspiracy that runs deeper than they could ever imagine. Boyd soon turns up dead, and Pavel and Anders discover that the midget, Söldmann, was a spy for the occupying Russians and was set to deliver a mysterious package on the night of his death. Boyd's and Söldmann's deaths arouse the interest of Pavel's upstairs neighbors, the nefarious British Colonel Fosko and his prostitute companion, Sonia, who join the Russians and Germans in the hunt for Söldmann's lost loot, and Pavel finds himself falling in love with Sonia. Despite an overabundance of minor characters and a conclusion that isn't exactly surprising, Vyleta conjures a convincing postwar Berlin in all of its moral ambiguity. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

The son of Czech refugees who immigrated to Germany in the late 1960s, Berlin-based Vyleta sets his debut in Berlin in the terrible winter of 1946-47. His narrator Petersen, the "I" of the title, is a freelance torturer for an obese British colonel named Fosko. When an American grifter dumps the body of a dead midget on Pavel Richter and is killed soon after, Pavel attracts the attention of the colonel. Apparently, the midget was a spy for General Karpov of the Soviet NKVD (secret police) and had in his possession "merchandise" of interest to all. But just who is Pavel? He appears to be simply an ex-GI, an American who abandoned his wife in the States and lives in squalid conditions with Anders, a 12-year-old orphan. Pavel, a quiet scholar at heart, and Anders are soon forced to turn for help to Sonia, a prostitute who has just moved in upstairs. In the midst of these entangled lives and against a noirish backdrop of starvation and ghastly cold lies many a mystery. But the mysteries themselves-and the details of plot-are far less interesting than the characters, whose unusual lives are explored with masterful depth. Recommended for larger public libraries.
—Ron Terpening

Kirkus Reviews
A messy, over-the-top thriller set in postwar Berlin. A pimp, a whore, a midget and a soldier in a mink coat propel the plot of this first novel from Cambridge-educated Vyleta. The soldier is an epicene brute, a grotesquely fat British colonel called Fosko; he has a secret fact-gathering operation and uses torture. He gets wind of a wily German midget, Soldmann, who trades information on the black market and frequents a brothel run by an American, Boyd. Fosko, promising a British passport, induces a desperate young German woman, Sonia, to go work for Boyd and spy on the midget. Soldmann does indeed have an immensely valuable microfilm. Fosko has him killed. Boyd dumps the dead midget on his best friend, Pavel; soon after Fosko has Boyd tortured and killed, but the microfilm is missing. Thus Pavel enters the story. He claims he's an American citizen, son of a German-Jewish father and a Russian mother, but who knows for sure? He's an enigma, a gentle man who kills ruthlessly when he must and inspires devotion. Sonia the whore, who by now is Fosko's mistress and living next door, falls for him big time. So does Anders, the young gang member looking for a surrogate father. Even Peterson, Fosko's one-eyed torture guy and the "I" of the title, comes to love him like a brother. All this happens around Christmas 1946. Berlin is bitter cold. Its poverty is abject. Underneath their tough-guy exteriors, Vyleta's characters are quietly weepy, except for Fosko, who sings a Christmas carol as he strips a Russian corpse (the Russkis want that microfilm too); the man is so vile you know the author has a horrible end planned for him. The story, clumsily told, moves in fits and starts, doubles back onitself and switches viewpoints recklessly, bringing us no closer to understanding Pavel. Pretentious and silly. Agent: Simon Lipskar/Writers House LLC
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608198078
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 2/28/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 468,203
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Dan Vyleta is the son of Czech refugees who emigrated to Germany in the late 1960s. He holds a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge, and lives and works in Canada. This is his first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2008

    Strong Debut!

    This is a fine book by a very talented writer. While it has been marketed as a spy story - and it surely is that - Pavel and I also makes an intriguing argument about historiography and imagination. The book is essentially about ideas. I think fans of thrillers and literary fiction alike will find much to love here! Highly recommended.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This is a fabulous historical mystery

    Germany surrendered to the allies just over a year ago, but the occupation remains everywhere in the battered country divided up between America, France, England and Russia. Adding to the despondency is the weather is icy cold as 1946 turns into 1947.---------------- American G.I. Pavel Richter remains in brutally freezing Berlin. His friend Boyd White arrives at his home asking for help as he has the corpse of a local midget to dispose of. Getting over his initial shock, Pavel agrees to help conceal the body in his place for now. However soon afterward Boyd is killed and Pavel learns the body living with him is a Russian double agent Suldmann whose delivery package is missing. Pavel¿s neighbors British Colonel Fosko and his prostitute Sonia along with German and Russian agents seek whatever Suldmann was carrying while Pavel just wants to get out of the mess he inadvertently finds himself in although he is in love with Sonia.------------------ This is a fabulous historical mystery in which the atmosphere of Berlin just after WWI owns the well written story line. The prime players especially Pavel seem genuine. However the cast of a zillion support characters bring alive the war battered residents struggling with sustenance in any way possible as any pre war ethics mean nothing on an empty stomach but intrudes on the main plot of deadly rivals competing to find Suldmann¿s cache. ------------------- Harriet Klausner

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