Distant Lover

Christoph Hein, Author Pantheon Books $16.95 (178p) ISBN 978-0-394-56634-4
The paralyzing ennui of modern existence is the central force in this rather detached 1982 novel by an East German poet and playwright who is a rising star on the European literary scene. Writing in the voice of Claudia, a young female doctor, Hein creates a life that is not so much lived as it is survived. ``I had to maintain my distance from other people, in order to avoid deception, in order to avoid deceiving,'' she reflects. An avid photographer, Claudia only takes pictures of empty landscapes--``It upsets me to see the unnatural poses people strike in pictures. Trees stay the way they are; they don't try to look better for the camera.'' When she begins an affair with Henry, a married architect who drives fast cars, she doesn't see the degree to which she has been affected. His death reveals the extent of her lack of engagement with the world, and her remoteness mirrors the meaninglessness of much of the busyness that we call civilization, East or West. Unfortunately, when Claudia realizes that her photographs ``lack a horizon, they can't wilt or decay, and thus they also lack hope,'' she could be describing this ice-cold novel as well. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/1989
Release date: 03/01/1989
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