Brecht’s Mistress

A Novel

Winner of the 2003 Prix Goncourt, a novel hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as “a delicate, elegiac tale of political failure and defeated love”

“Built around an impeccably constructed narration, carried by writing of a grand elegance, this novel seduces by its classical beauty and intelligent strength.” —Le Figaro

A fictional story based on the final years of playwright Bertolt Brecht, Brecht’s Mistress is a literary Cold War thriller that “recalls le Carré” (Daily Telegraph) in its evocation of the grim world of postwar East Germany and its depiction of personal destinies intertwined with superpower rivalry.

Inspired by an actual photograph taken of Brecht and a beautiful unknown young woman, Amette’s novel opens on October 22, 1948, the day of Brecht’s return to the Soviet-controlled zone of Berlin. Despite Brecht’s abiding communist sympathies, the Stasi, East Germany’s notorious secret police force, suspects his motives and recruits the young and vulnerable Viennese actress Maria Eich to spy on him. Brecht—married to the actress Helen Weigel—is a womanizer, and Maria soon becomes one of a long string of mistresses. Maria, for her part, has fallen in love with her Stasi recruiting officer, Hans Trow. An intricate plot plays itself out on the terrain of infidelities, ambition, and Cold War politics.

Praise

“The dramatist’s ear for dialogue, the screenwriter’s eye for the details of location, the critic’s relish for ideas—are everywhere evident in Brecht’s Mistress.”
The Times Literary Supplement
“Delicate, lightly structured, very subtle—a mature work.”
Le Monde