Christoph Hein

Befuddlement - Novel

(German title: Verwirrnis)
ca. 303 pages
Christoph Hein
Foto: Christoph Hein
© Heike Steinweg

Born in 1944, Christoph Hein lives in Berlin. He has written novels, novellas, short stories, plays, essays and children’s books. His most recent novels were on the Spiegel bestseller list for weeks. His recent awards include the 2019 Prix du Meilleur livre étranger (for Glückskind mit Vater), the 2019 Samuel Bogumił Linde Prize and the 2017 Grimmelshausen Prize.

Awards (selection):
2019: Prix du Meilleur livre étranger (for Glückskind mit Vater)
2019: Samuel Bogumił Linde Prize
2017: Grimmelshausen Literature Prize
2013: Stefan Heym Prize
2012: Uwe Johnson Prize
2010: Eichendorff Literature Prize
2008: Walter Hasenclever Literature Prize
2004: Schiller Memorial Prize of the State of Baden-Württemberg
2002: Austrian State Prize for European Literature
2000: Solothurner Literature Prize
1998: Peter Weiss Prize of the City of Bochum
1994: Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
1990: Erich Fried Prize (Vienna)
1983: Deutscher Kritikerpreis

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A gay love in the GDR


Friedeward loves Wolfgang. And Wolfgang loves Friedeward. They are young, enjoying the summer vacation, cycle the long way to the sea, discuss all the subjects under the sun. They are happy when they are together, and this seems to be all that they need. But no one must know that they more than best friends. It is the 1950s, they live in Catholic Heiligenstadt, and for those people around him, particularly for Friedeward’s ardently believing father, their love is a sin. If their relationship were to be discovered, they could lose everything.

When they move to Leipzig to study – Friedeward German literature, Wolfgang music – they discover a world of renowned intellectuals, it all glimmers with vivid thinking. And they get to know Jennifer who confides in them that she is conducting a secret love with one of the female teaching fellows. The four of them attend the legendary lectures in auditorium forty, go to the theatre and throw themselves into the intellectual life of the city. And gradually the three friends form a plan: Would it not be the perfect ‘disguise’ if one of them would marry Jennifer in a fictitious marriage?

In his new novel, the great German chronicler Christoph Hein movingly explores a love that for years defies all barriers – and at the same time depicts a vivid panorama of German intellectual life.


»In his new novel Befuddlement, Christoph Hein, one of the sharpest eyes working in contemporary German literature, leads us straight into this oppressive time while telling the exciting and moving story of its protagonist Friedeward Ringeling.« Der Tagesspiegel

»Beyond the cries and gestures of public morality, Christoph Hein has written an amazingly quiet novel.« Paul Jandl, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

» ... a touching story about love, punishment and betrayal.« Die literarische Welt

»As in his other novels, in his latest work Hein elegantly transforms almost overlooked historical facts into fiction, and in so doing questions our present.« die tageszeitung

»Up to the end, Befuddlement is full of surprising turns that capture the reader, but never take them prisoner. ... A psychosocial novel one is wiser for having read.« Mitteldeutsche Zeitung

»His newest, relatively compact book Befuddlement is also well told and lively, bordering on vivacious.« Judith von Sternburg, Frankfurter Rundschau

»Christoph Hein gets under your skin with this story of an ›outsider‹ from the middle of an unenlightened society of two 20th-century German states, which, in this respect, were undivided (and for quite some time). And this proves to be one of this novel’s most astonishing insights.« WDR 5

»Through his characters’ private imbroglios and injuries Christoph Hein reflects precarious psychosocial problems.« www.main-spitze.de

»Hein tells this story of powerful emotions with great restraint – discreet, but always present: this is his most powerful work to date.« Deutschlandfunk Kultur

»Everything is told with such an accurate and subtle style, it is as if the language itself had taken up the anxious-brilliant manners of the protagonists.« Berliner Zeitung

»Christoph Hein makes it look like a report. He circles his figures with business-like distance, before going into tragedy. ... Christoph Hein has written a captivating novel about love, silence, and guilt, a story about what is possible — and what’s not.« Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten

»The sense of tragedy in Hein’s novel builds and builds until you can barely take it any longer.« Sächsische Zeitung

»With Befuddlement Christoph Hein has written an impressive novel that connects the private to the political in a fictional tale which could just have easily actually taken place in reality.« Wiener Zeitung

»Without a hint of pathos or sentimentalism Christoph Hein has written a truly great, highly recommendable novel.« sandammeer.at

Other publications

Guldenberg/Guldenberg (2021)

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Trutz/Trutz (2017)

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Glückskind mit Vater/Portrait of a Son With Father (2016)

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Weiskerns Nachlass/Weiskern's Legacy (2011)

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Frau Paula Trousseau/Ms. Paula Trousseau (2007)

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In seiner frühen Kindheit ein Garten/In his early childhood, a garden (2005)

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Mama ist gegangen/Mama Has Gone (2005)

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Landnahme/Settlement (2004)

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Willenbrock/Willenbrock (2000)

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Von allem Anfang an/Von allem Anfang an (1997)

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Der Tangospieler/The Tango Player (1989)

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Horns Ende/Horn's End (1985)

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Der fremde Freund. Drachenblut/The Distant Lover (1982)

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