Humanity Behind the Wall
Review: In Times of Fading Light
Joseph F. Berenato
In Times of Fading Light
Eugen Ruge, Translated by Anthea Bell
Fiction – Novel
Graywolf Press, pp. 308
My generation comprised the last of the Cold War Kids, and the Communist Bloc was still a very real thing during my childhood. It didn’t matter if we were talking about soldiers or scholars, presidents or peasants; any person beyond the Berlin Wall was the enemy. It was inconceivable to us that anyone who lived on the other side of the Iron Curtain could be painted as anything but “Godless Communists”. Yet that is exactly what Eugen Ruge did in his out-of-the-gate hit In Times Of Fading Light, which spans almost sixty years of family and national history.
The story is not told linearly; instead, the narrative jumps back and forth in a series of vignettes starting and ending in 2001 just days after September 11, and going as far back as 1952 (the year that the German Democratic Republic – East Germany – closed its border to West Germany). By telling these tales through a multitude of characters’ points of view – one story in particular is told from six unique perspectives on October 1, 1989, slightly more than a month before the fall of the Berlin Wall – Ruge gives us an intimate look at characters who are every bit as hopeful, talented, jaded and flawed as their Western rivals.