Maxim Leo, Shaun Whiteside, Clare Skeats
A Sunday Telegraph, Irish Times and Glasgow Herald Book of the Year
“Tender, acute and utterly absorbing” Anna Funder, author of Stasiland
“A wry and unheroic witness… an unofficial history of a country that no longer exists” Julian Barnes
“Beautiful and supremely touching” Keith Lowe, Sunday Telegraph
“Compelling … [Leo] is terrific at elucidating the slow, incremental steps by which people come to lie to themselves… Guile, guilt and disappointment drip from these pages and Red Love is all the more affecting for it” New Statesman
Growing up in East Berlin, Maxim Leo knew not to ask questions. All he knew was that his rebellious parents, Wolf and Anne, with their dyed hair, leather jackets and insistence he call them by their first names, were a bit embarrassing. That there were some places you couldn’t play; certain things you didn’t say.
Now, married with two children and the Wall a distant memory, Maxim decides to find the answers to the questions he couldn’t ask. Why did his parents, once passionately in love, grow apart? Why did his father become so angry, and his mother quit her career in journalism? And why did his grandfather Gerhard, the Socialist war hero, turn into a stranger?
The story he unearths is, like his country’s past, one of hopes, lies, cruelties, betrayals but also love. In Red Love he captures, with warmth and unflinching honesty, why so many dreamed the GDR would be a new world and why, in the end, it fell apart.
“Tender, acute and utterly absorbing. In fine portraits of his family members Leo takes us through three generations of his family, showing how they adopt, reject and survive the fierce, uplifting and ultimately catastrophic ideologies of 20th-century Europe. We are taken on an intimate journey from the exhilaration and extreme courage of the French Resistance to the uncomfortable moral accommodations of passive resistance in the GDR.
“He describes these ‘ordinary lies’ and contradictions, and the way human beings have to negotiate their way through them, with great clarity, humour and truthfulness, for which the jury of the European Book Prize is delighted to honour Red Love. His personal memoir serves as an unofficial history of a country that no longer exists… He is a wry and unheroic witness to the distorting impact – sometimes frightening, sometimes merely absurd – that ideology has upon the daily life of the individual: citizens only allowed to dance in couples, journalists unable to mention car tyres or washing machines for reasons of state.” Julian Barnes, European Book Prize
With wonderful insight Leo shows how the human need to believe and to belong to a cause greater than ourselves can inspire a person to acts of heroism, but can then ossify into loyalty to a cause that long ago betrayed its people.” Anna Funder, author of Stasiland
>>”Leo uses the intimate scope of his family to explore the turbulent political history of East Germany from a perspective that has not been seen before. The result is an absorbing and personal account that gives outsiders an insight into life in the GDR” Shortlist
“Affectionate, insightful… Red Love is a fascinating tale… beautifully written and translated” Bookoxygen
Maxim Leo was born in 1970 in East Berlin. He studied Political Science at the Free University in Berlin and at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. Since 1997 he is Editor of the Berliner Zeitung. In 2002 he was nominated for the Egon-Erwin-Kisch Prize, and in the same year won the German-French Journalism Prize. He won the Theodor Wolff Prize in 2006. He lives in Berlin.
Beautiful and supremely touching -- Keith Lowe, author of Savage Continent Sunday Telegraph A serious, very moving book... a weave of narratives about five lives, connected by blood and marriage but divided by politics -- Neal Ascherson London Review of Books Simultaneously gripping and meditative, an engaging and thought-provoking portrait of a disappeared world -- Natasha Tripney Observer Compelling ... [Leo] is terrific at elucidating the slow, incremental steps by which people come to lie to themselves... guile, guilt and disappointment drip from these pages and Red Love is all the more affecting for it -- Marina Benjamin New Statesman With truthful tenderness and wry humour, Maxim Leo looks back not in anger but in an effort to understand the past -- Iain Finlayson The Times Honest and sober... a convincing depiction of what everyday life was like and the legacy it has left... illuminating Metro An absorbing and personal account that gives outsiders an insight into life in the GDR Shortlist [Red Love] gives us extraordinary, intimate access to East Germany when the state was not just in the family apartment but locked within the minds and aspirations of all its citizens Sunday Telegraph Red Love is an important and compelling book for many reasons, but perhaps more than anything it reminds us of the pull of family, however flawed it might be -- Susie Dent Spectator Red Love... is a memoir about three leftist German generations in a family seeking Utopia and trying to stay whole. -- Neal Ascherson Glasgow Herald Illuminating ... Red Love offers an engaging exploration of the complex decades that caused families to become strangers to one another, and a refreshing response to the deceptively simple question: "What was it like?" Independent Persuasive and absorbing... written with warmth, humour and no shortage of self-criticism -- Peter Graves TLS [S]earching and sensitive chronicle of three generations making the journey from euphoric hope to disillusionment to despair New York Times Extraordinarily compelling... Red Love is a story about the confusion and fear that came to those who lived in East Germany and suddenly saw their country disappear. Leo's memoir humanizes this history and offers readers a glimpse into a different past. New York Daily News A compassionate memoir... By unpicking the loyalties of both political and family life, Leo honours the complicated motivations of real people, resulting in a humane, enlightening history of a collapsed country and a lost home. Guardian Maxim Leo has produced a lucid, dispassionate, and altogether extraordinary account of three generations of his German family as Big History kicked them around and they, for the most part, made sterling attempts to kick back Los Angeles Review of Books Most touching memoir of a life in East Germany... so beautiful -- Susie Dent Radio 4's A Good Read The most extraordinary book, fascinating... a brilliant picture of a time... and of a place... I'd never seen [the GDR] like this before -- Harriet Gilbert Radio 4's A Good Read
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