Fiction Times of Fading

Published on August 5th, 2013


In Times of Fading Light by Eugen Ruge

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Blurb: Translated by Anthea Bell. In Times of Fading Light begins in 2001 as Alexander Umnitzer, who has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, leaves behind his ailing father to fly to Mexico, where his grandparents lived as exiles in the 1940s. The novel then takes us both forward and back in time, creating a panoramic view of the family’s history: from Alexander’s grandparents’ return to the GDR to build the socialist state to his father’s decade spent in a Gulag for criticising the Soviet regime to his son’s desire to leave the political struggles of the twentieth century in the past. (Faber & Faber)

Ian Thomson, The Telegraph

“Eugen Ruge’s wonderful debut novel follows four generations of an East German family from 1952 to 2001. The book is Thomas Mann-like in its sweep, but a good deal funnier. The author, born in the Soviet Union in 1954 of Russian-German parentage, offers a warm and at times hilarious portrait of the East German dictatorship.”

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Rebecca K. Morrison, The Independent

“With a deceptively unfussy narrative style, rich in dialogue and some tremendous set-piece monologues, Ruge’s “story of a family” delivers a hugely informative, entertaining and thought-provoking panoramic view of Communism in Germany. It runs from the 1920s – including the disastrous United Front policy that saw Communists siding in rhetoric with the National Socialists against the Social Democrats – to the horrors of Stalinism, the jostling for power in the bleak ruins of post-war Germany, and the coming of perestroika and new hopes for “greater democracy” under Gorbachev, while others fear a “liquidation of the GDR”. There is much detail to astound in Anthea Bell’s impeccable translation, which captures all the charm of the original.”

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Claire Lowdon, The Sunday Times

“This narrative structure might sound complicated, but Ruge is a skilful arranger, shifting judiciously between his three tempi to create clever juxtapositions. And if some of the chapters are less compelling, it doesn’t matter — because the sum here is greater than the parts.”

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Frederick Studemann, The Financial Times

“Ruge – the half-German, half-Russian son of a historian born in exile in the Urals – moves back and forth in time and between narrators to build up a textured portrait of a family and society where lines between the personal and the political are blurred. He avoids the twin pitfalls of writing about the GDR: the misty-eyed “ostalgie” that claims it wasn’t that bad after all; or, at the other extreme, the chronicle of woe in which all humanity has been extinguished by the Stasi. Instead, this is an unsentimental and at times comic portrayal of a society that was always an oddball.”

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