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Prize-winning German writer Ingo Schulze's first novel, Simple Stories, is a marvel of storytelling and craft. Set in the East German town of Altenburg after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it deftly leaps among an array of confused characters caught in the crossroads of their country’s history: a lovelorn waitress who falls for a visiting West German investor; an art historian turned traveling salesman; a former Communist official plagued by his past; an unsuccessful writer who asks his neighbor to break his leg so that he can continue to live on welfare.
Schulze skillfully intercuts an assortment of moving and comic vignettes about seemingly unconnected people, gradually linking them into an exhilarating whole of tidal unity and emotional force, until we see that all the time we have been reading a novel in glittering fragments, spun by a master. With a piercing eye for detail and a magical ear for dialogue, Schulze portrays the tragi-comedy of ordinary people caught up in the last great historical upheaval of the century.
Translated from the German by John E. Woods
“Ingo Schulze is our new epic storyteller.” —Günter Grass, Nobel Prize-winning author of The Tin Drum
"It is impossible to do justice to the complexity of this novel.... The fact that it vibrates so oddly and beautifully demands that we see it as a startling achievement."—Review of Contemporary Fiction
"The originality of this wonderful novels derives in good part from Ingo Schulze's gift for gleeful pastiche.... He appropriates the famously deadpan diction and flat affect of Raymond Carver's hard-luck stories to describe the stodgy small-town East Germans forced to reinvent themselves when their world collapses. It's a brilliant narrative strategy for capturing a time of giddy terror and—much more rarely—exhiliration.... Schulze himself is no minimalist; instead, he's a baroquely expansive comic."—The New York Times Book Review
"[Simple Stories] explores the aftermath of living in what was perhaps the most spied-on society in history. . . . with snapshots of the confusion, insecurity and sorrow that accompany freedom." –Chicago Tribune
“Tremendously rewarding. . . . Schulze creates a precarious and affectionate backdrop against which his heroes struggle to live out their simple stories.” –Los Angeles Times
“Wonderful…. Schulze is a baroquely expansive comic.”–The New York Times Book Review