Friday, January 10, 2014
Title: In Times of Fading Light: the story of a family
By: Eugen Ruge
An East-German family saga told in different characters’ voices and from different points in time. The telling revolves around the 90th birthday party of Wilhelm, the oldest family member. A committed Communist Party member since 1919, Wilhelm worked in Mexico City for a period before he and his wife Charlotte were sent back to the newly created East German state in 1952. The family includes a Siberian potato farmer grandmother, and a son who defects to the West.
This book is challenging; it is one in which none of the characters is entirely likeable, and one or two can be exasperatingly difficult. But that also makes for gritty and realistic fiction. The family members’ differing perspectives on society and each other are interesting, especially for Americans for whom East German life was a terra incognita for decades. The kaleidoscope of revolving characters provides a complex portrayal of each individual. The writing is minutely detailed, and Irina’s Christmas dinner for the family in 1976 is a masterpiece of slowly impending disaster.
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