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In 20 parts, this novel depicts the story of one family through half a century, from 1952 to 2001, the pivot around which all turns, a 90th birthday on 1 October 1989.
Each part is one story, seen from the perspective of a particular person, which at the same time intertwines with the other tales, each a brick in the puzzle the reader must put together.
At the centre are three generations: The grandparents who are devoted communists, exiles from Mexico, settling in their new homeland, the DDR, bent on making their contribution to the new country. Their son has in his youth moved to Moscow but ends in a Siberian prison camp. He begins his journey home from the other side, from the Ural. He returns with his Russian wife to a petit bourgeois society, he still believes is possible to change. But the grandson believes the world of his parents and grandparents too small and flees to the West.
Enormous historical changes occur during this period, and yet it is not this history but these people the novel is about. The author depicts first and foremost each individual person and their relationship with one another, and he does so with tight and humorous observations. Nothing is black or white, the shading changes with each perspective.
A humorous and at the same time serious novel that often takes unexpected turns.
The book has received several prices and is translated into many languages.