Set in 1968 Leipzig, Christoph Hein's novel is the story of Dallow, an apolitical academic who has just returned to civilian life after serving twenty-one months in prison. His crime: he was the substitute piano player in a student cabaret in which seditious verses were sung. Dallow returns to a life in of loveless sex, police harassment, and brutality, revealing how a corrupt system perverts all human interaction, and how lives are ruined by ...
Set in 1968 Leipzig, Christoph Hein's novel is the story of Dallow, an apolitical academic who has just returned to civilian life after serving twenty-one months in prison. His crime: he was the substitute piano player in a student cabaret in which seditious verses were sung. Dallow returns to a life in of loveless sex, police harassment, and brutality, revealing how a corrupt system perverts all human interaction, and how lives are ruined by malicious caprice.
One of East Germany's leading writers, Hein The Distant Lover critiques the political corruption and patronage system that marked his country's brand of communism during the 1960s. The tersely described life of Dallow, a luckless history professor in Leipzig, receives its dramatic tension from historical events, particularly the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. In a gross miscarriage of justice, Dallow is jailed for performing in a politically subversive cabaret revue--the judge, aware that this professor only accompanied a bunch of rowdy students on the piano, nevertheless decides tomake an example of him. Disoriented and bitter after his 21 months in prison, without even the comfort of thinking himself a dissident, Dallow petitions to get his job back but is rejected. Any sympathy for the unfortunate Dallow diminishes as he lapses into a routine of heavy drinking and one-night stands, while a half-hearted attempt at an affair falters. Pressured to return to the university as an informer, he retreats to a distant resort town where he leads an amiable, rootless existence. But a political purge at his former institute paves the way for his reinstatement there as a professor. The reader is left with the impression that Dallow is—or has become—as morally bankrupt as the system that produced him.
In this tightly written novel of East Germany in 1968, Hans-Peter Dallow is a Leipzig professor unjustly sentenced for political crimes to 21 months in the "pen.'' His arrest and the ensuing period of his reentry into East German society might be seen as a Kafkaesque charade were it not so realistic and so well portrayed. While the original German Der Tangospieler, 1989 was published before the wall came down, Hein's novel of an unlikely hero unable to deal with his future while the injustice of the past haunts him strangely foreshadows the struggle facing East Germans moving into a free world. A good translation of a very readable novel by a major modern German writer. Recommended for both general audiences and academic collections.
—Ingrid Schierling, Univ. of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Christoph Hein (born 8 April 1944) is a German author and translator. He grew up in the village Bad Düben near Leipzig. Being a clergyman's son and thus not allowed to attend the Erweiterte Oberschule, he received secondary education at a gymnasium in the western part of Berlin. After his Abitur he jobbed inter alia as assembler, bookseller and assistant director. From 1967 to 1971 Hein studied philosophy in Leipzig and Berlin. Upon graduation he became dramatic adviser at the Volksbühne in Berlin, where he worked a resident writer from 1974. Since 1979 Hein has worked as a freelance writer. Hein first became known for his 1982 novella Der fremde Freund (The Distant Lover). From 1998 to 2000 Hein was the first president of the pan-German PEN-Centre.