cover image Adam & Evelyn

Adam & Evelyn

Ingo Schulze, trans. from the German by John E. Woods. Knopf, $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-307-27281-2

There’s no doubt that Schulze (One More Story: Thirteen Stories in the Time-Honored Mode) wants to evoke Adam and Eve cast out of paradise with his latest novel. But what is paradise here? East Germany, where Adam, a tailor, sleeps with his clients despite live-in girlfriend Evelyn? If so, paradise is lost when Evelyn discovers Adam’s infidelities and takes off to Hungary with a man from the West. Home-loving Adam packs their pet tortoise into his beloved Wartburg 311 to pursue her and the political overtakes the personal: it’s 1989. The book, ably translated by Woods, is full of homely details of life behind the wall, in Hungary, and in the West, and of people accommodating to what happens when those details change. Accidental émigré Adam is diagnosed with “emigration syndrome” and “adaptation problems,” which his namesake must surely have had as well. Schulze’s Evelyn has a different problem: she’s underwritten and it’s not entirely clear why Adam’s so smitten. (The same can be said, arguably, of her biblical counterpart.) But this is a minor problem in an otherwise likable book that reveals how world-changing events play out at the domestic level and offers a thoughtful meditation on temptation, expulsion, and what constitutes home. (Nov.)