In a country mired in . . . steeped in . . . no–burdened by history, Bernd Willenbrock lives in the present. He concerns himself with buying and selling used cars, getting women to sleep with him, and keeping up a companionable if superficial connection with his wife. But over the course of Christoph Hein’s latest novel, his title character learns that if you live in Berlin in the unified Germany, and come from East Germany, and sell cars to eastern Europeans, and find out that a former colleague spied on you–it’s pretty darn hard to escape the past. Lawlessness in Moscow touches his prosperous life, as does instability in Poland and crime at home. Ultimately he finds himself owning an illegal gun and using it. For this the wall came down? Hein, one of the former GDR’s leading critics, is also a playwright and author of the award-winning novels The Tango Player and The Distant Lover. He’ll read from Willenbrock at 6 PM Tuesday, December 9, at the Goethe-Institut, 150 N. Michigan, 312-263-0472. He’ll read in German and translator Philip Boehm will read in English; both will answer questions afterward.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Thomas Sandberg.