February books: The Architects by Stefan Heym

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The Architects by Stefan Heym

This posthumously published novel is set in an unnamed East German city in 1956, before and after Kruschovs secret speech denouncing Stalin. His speech has devastating consequences for the novels main characters.

Arnold Sundstrom, a successful architect has looked after then wed the young daughter of a friend who “disappeared” in the Soviet Union in the 1940s. Julia is now also an architect working in her husbands practice.

But what really happened to Julia’s parents? Is her husband telling the truth? The arrival of an old Bauhaus colleague of Sundstrom’s who has some of the answers, makes Sundstrom question his beliefs and convictions and Julia to question the validity of her marriage

This novel was written in 1965, but was unable to be published as Erich Honecker, the East German leader had denounced Heym in a speech.

It gives a fascinating insight into both the East German regime, and the conflict between modernist architectural ideas and a socialist “people’s” architecture.
This may make it sound like a dry read. This is not the case. The main focus is the disintegration of Julia and Arnold’s marriage under the strain of revelations of the past. A unique and compelling read.

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