From Publishers Weekly
Lasdun's acclaimed first novel, The Horned Man
, followed three short story collections and several books of poems. This second full-length outing seductively and stylishly dissects a life of Cold War fabrication told in flashback. Stefan Vogel, a narrator as insinuatingly unreliable as one of Patricia Highsmith's blithe psychopaths, grows up in the grim fantasyland of Brezhnev-era East Germany, the son of parents whose scuttled diplomatic ambitions for a "better life" in the West consume him. A minor dissident, he is sprung, along with wife-to-be Inge, from an East German prison by a West German government intent on making a showpiece of him. Instead, he and Inge emigrate to the U.S. In the picaresque process of realizing his dream of America, his succession of identities and impostures eerily shadow that of the waning Cold War: eager apparatchik, exotic poet, noble dissident;and last year's news. Of course, America turns out to be as ridden with mendacity as his vanished homeland, and after five years in New York City and 15 in self-imposed upstate exile, the labyrinth of lies (the seven of the title come from Martin Luther) begins to close in on his orderly life and marriage. Sly, witty and just allegorical enough to make one reflect on one's own deceptions, Lasdun's latest is a bracing and accomplished entertainment. (Oct.)
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This chilly, psychologically chilling cold war artifact contemplates the ways in which a totalitarian state can constrict one's heart and pollute one's soul. Stefan Vogel's domineering mother, a social climber in officially class-free East Germany, echoes and reinforces the state's implicit messages to its citizens: You are being watched; there is no escape; conform to the prescribed ideology at all costs. Is it any wonder, then, that young Stefan plays along when his mother announces him as a budding poet, subjecting himself to abuse at the hands of the building superintendent in exchange for access to a collection of Western poetry from which he can crib? His deceptions and betrayals--of others, certainly, but mostly of himself--lead Stefan to the America he has secretly yearned to embrace, with the woman he has not-so-secretly coveted. But although one may escape the iron curtain, one never can quite escape oneself. So when a stranger at a Manhattan party throws a glass of wine in his face upon hearing his name, Stefan starts a diary that finally brings his internal corrosion painfully, poignantly to the surface. Frank SennettCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved