The Monument

Erich Loest, Author Secker & Warburg $19.95 (232p) ISBN 978-0-436-25673-8
This highly political novel, originally published in German in 1984, is Loest's first novel to be translated into English, although earlier controversial works earned him seven years in East German prisons before he emigrated to the West in 1981. The Monument is written in the form of a monologue, fashioned as a response to an interrogator's questions over several days' time. An unseen questioner elicits the narrative that becomes demolition expert Alfred Linden's account of the events that led to his arrest. His story is an amalgam of the lives of several men, centering around the Battle of Nations in 1813. Born in 1913, and a patriotic Saxon above all, Linden is unable to accept the Leipzig that has been drained of its life and culture since the Russians took over. His identity is intertwined with Leipzig's towering Monument to the Battle of Nations commemorating the defeat of Napoleon. As Berlin authorities assign to him the unthinkable task of blowing up Leipzig's university and cathedral to clear the way for the new order, Linden decides to demolish his beloved monument, but is arrested before he can carry out his scheme. Each chapter of the novel has a title that is a question``Surely not single-handed, though?''; ``Did you have any childhood traumas?''and Linden's digressions from those points give the book its form. Revealing something of the paradox and irony Eastern Europeans face when they contemplate the past, The Monument is the diary of a man in despair. (July)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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