From Publishers Weekly
An enterprising used-car salesman in post-Iron Curtain Berlin navigates the capitalist world of shady deals and armed robbery in this sharp, darkly humorous novel by East German novelist/playwright Hein (The Tango Player). Though German reunification brought an end to Bernd Willenbrock's 20-year engineering career in East Germany, he now presides, alongside his Polish assistant, Jurek, over an exceptionally profitable used-car business that's frequented mostly by Russians and Poles. Willenbrock provides well for his lovely boutique-owner wife, Susanne, yet he's still a ladies' man and has several ongoing dalliances with women who wander onto his lot and end up with much more than a good deal on a clunker. In the unsettled climate, a rash of thefts troubles Willenbrock, prompting him to hire a night watchman to guard the lot. A particularly traumatic robbery at the Willenbrock country home further erodes his sense of security, and paranoia sets in. While his plans to build a new showroom move ahead, the thieves from the break-in are apprehended, but then merely deported without punishment. This injustice pushes Willenbrock to take his Russian friend Krylov up on an offer to settle the matter privately as a "friendly favor," but in the end he thinks better of it and accepts a handgun instead. The tense climax tests his mettle and forces him to finally confront a long-held aversion to weapons and violence. Hein's expertly translated novel is brisk, clever and engrossing, and Willenbrock makes a compelling protagonist an uncomplicated man faced with all the opportunities and pitfalls of post-Wall Germany.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Bernd Willenbrock appears to be leading the good life in Berlin. Agile enough to switch careers after the fall of the Berlin wall (he was in the eastern sector), he made the successful transition from engineer to used-car dealer. But just when he seems to be on top of things, his life crumbles. Is his wife having an affair or not? Will the Russian criminals who staged a home invasion of his country house return? Slowly, Willenbrock descends to a level of paranoia that even he considers obsessive but which he is both powerless and disinclined to fight. The final push toward the edge comes courtesy of a shady Russian customer who supplies Willenbrock with a gun. Despite a few subplots and allusions that lead the reader down dead-end paths, Hein, author of The Tango Player
(1992), presents a riveting character study of a man whose attitude toward life deteriorates to the point where he is again living in his own private East Germany. Frank CasoCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved