cover image New Lives

New Lives

, . . Knopf, $28.95 (573pp) ISBN 978-0-307-26559-3

Schulze’s dense and beguiling novel about the reunification of Germany consists of the collected works of Enrico “Heinrich” Türmer, a member of the East German intelligentsia. The works are his correspondence with his sister, Vera, with whom he has an incestuous relationship; his best friend, Johann Ziehlke; and his future lover, a photographer named Nicoletta Hanson. The remainder is rounded out by an appendix that contains a novella, plus nitpicking footnotes from Schulze, who casts himself as the volume’s editor. As we learn from Türmer’s letters, he quits the theater job he’d been given by the state to partner up in running a newspaper. His guide to the new world of capitalism is “Baron” Dr. Clemens von Barrista, a sort of Mephistophelian mini-Soros. Throughout, Schulze captures something ephemeral but critical about how the idealism that brought down the Wall also brought down itself. Or as Türmer remarks about his fellow intellectual dissidents, “Any attention paid to us—the attention that called us onstage—would vanish from the face of the earth” when they succeeded. This novel shows the tragicomic prescience of that remark. (Oct.)