‘Adam and Evelyn’ by Ingo Schulze – 1989, The Wind of Change

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‘Adam and Evelyn’ by Ingo Schulze    (2008) – 282 pages    Translated from the German by John E. Woods

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Adam is a ladies’ custom tailor.  He makes dresses for women which sometimes involves intimate measuring and adjusting.  Sometimes the lady is so delighted with his work and so grateful she wants to give him something extra.

One time Adam’s girlfriend Evelyn walks in on Adam and one of his more portly customers and catches them in a compromising position.  Then Evelyn takes off on a road trip with her friends leaving Adam behind, but he follows behind her in his car.

‘Adam and Evelyn’ is a sex comedy and a road trip story, a light soufflé of a novel.  However it all takes place against a dramatic political backdrop as the time is August, 1989, and Adam and Evelyn are living in East Germany.   This is the summer of mass flights of East German citizens across the Hungarian border, and there are constant rumors that Hungary will open its borders again.  The Soviet Union’s tight restrictive hold on Eastern Europe is loosening rapidly.

Several of the scenes in ‘Adam and Evelyn’ take place at border crossings.  In one scene Adam drives across a border with a young woman he met hidden in his trunk, she accompanied there in the trunk by his pet turtle Elfriede.

I wasn’t expecting a light humorous comedy about East Germans but that is what I got.   Everything we heard about East Germany was terribly serious about the heavy-handed governmental rule and border enforcement of the Communist era.  Now it has been over 25 years, and I do wonder what it is like today for the people who stayed in what used to be East Germany.

I would imagine there would be some difficulties for John E. Woods in translating such a carefree and fluffy novel.  The challenge is not only to find precisely the right words for each sentence but also to maintain the airy mood of the story.  Much of the novel is dialogue, so the interplay between the characters is critical.

Despite the clever title, I did not see a meaningful reference to the Adam and Eve story. A novel can be so light and inconsequential that it just floats away like a balloon leaving no impact on the reader.  That happened to me here to some extent in that I could only read a few pages at a time.  I could appreciate some of the humor, but the poignancy of the scenes for the characters escaped me, and I lost interest.  I don’t know if it was a problem of the translation or of the story itself, but I found ‘Adam and Evelyn’ a less than riveting read.

Grade:    B     

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