An edgy portrait of a successful wheeler-dealer on a downward slide, and a peek beneath the smug surface of life in modern-day Berlin
In the new unified Germany, Bernd Willenbrock is the perfect man for the season. A latecomer to the free-market feast, this former East German engineer has shown a downright Darwinian ability to adapt to the new environment. Proud owner of a thriving used-car dealership and an attractive second home, he is a generous husband, pleased by his role of provider. The business practically runs itself, leaving Willenbrock free to spice up his days with extramarital adventures. Prosperity seems guaranteed by a steady stream of cash-only clients from Eastern Europe, and plans for a glitzy new showroom are firmly under way.
Willenbrock's self-satisfaction appears impregnable. Yet little by little, a series of ever-more menacing incidents-an attempted break-in, the theft of several cars, a vicious beating-erode his innermost certainties. No amount of locks and latches, it seems, can contain his growing obsession with external safety, relieve his suspicion of those closest to him, or stop the coming violence.
In cool, detached prose, abundant with subtle ironies, Christoph Hein's portrait of a newly minted man of the West reveals a disturbing and all-too-familiar world where affluence comes at the price of lurking aggression, freedom is pervaded by insecurity, and contentment is undermined by mistrust.