(K. Brent Tomer),
Kruso. By Lutz Seiler. Translated by Tess Lewis. Scribe; 462 pages; £16.99.
WITH its thin body and chunky head (“the seahorse with the sledgehammer muzzle”), the German island of Hiddensee faces northwest across the Baltic Sea towards the coast of Denmark. Part of East Germany during the cold war, Hiddensee became an “island of the blessed”: an enclave of freethinkers where dreamers and idealists sought to escape the oppressive conformity of state socialism. Crucially, in “Kruso”, an outstanding debut novel by Lutz Seiler which won the 2014 German Book prize, it became home to refugees—swimmers, or sailors in makeshift craft—who tried to flee the GDR. Many drowned. Most were intercepted; but hundreds succeeded.
Mr Seiler’s student hero, Ed Bendler, abandons his course after the trauma of his girlfriend’s death to spend the summer of 1989 washing dishes in the Klausner Hotel on the island. Mr Seiler himself worked there in 1989. During East Germany’s final months, Ed joins the Utopian community of “esskays”—slang for seasonal…Continue reading