Eugen Ruge’s debut novel, In Times of Fading Light (Graywolf, June), follows four generations of the same German family for 50 years, from 1952 to 2001, as the Berlin Wall falls in the background. These days, the 58-year-old author divides his time between Berlin and Rügen, but he was born in the U.S.S.R. He says, “My father, a German emigrant, had been sent there, first to prison camp, then banishment. My mother is Russian. We came to Germany, the GDR, when I was two years old, so I grew up as a German with a Russian background.” Ruge went on to study mathematics and then to work in documentary film; he later began writing theater and radio plays. Eventually he turned to the novel, which won the 2011 German Book Prize.

Associate publisher Katie Dublinski says, “I first heard about In Times of Fading Light several years ago at the Frankfurt Book Fair and was immediately intrigued by the idea of a novel that follows the life of one family through the history of East Germany, from the end of World War II to the fall of the Wall. It’s both an engaging, intimate portrait of family life, full of recognizable dynamics, humor, and warmth, and the story of the rise and fall of a country.”

But, Ruge insists, “The book is not a political statement, unless you take it as a political allegation that even in a dictatorship there was a kind of human life; that there were interesting people and biographies too; that there was something worth keeping.”