Hari Kunzru’s sixth novel explores timely subjects – an internet environment that fosters paranoia; far-right movements that make selective use of the past to further their ends – and does so with a pervasive sense of gloom. It is set in 2016, with scenes in Germany, France, the Scottish Highlands and America, on the cusp of Trump’s election victory.
The unnamed narrator is a freelance writer from Brooklyn with an acute feeling of impending crisis. He is given a three-month residency at the Deuter Center, a writers’ retreat in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee. He has arrived to write a book about the concept of the self in lyric poetry. This is not a disinterested activity: he is writing to affirm a sense of himself as the world appears to disintegrate.
Anton, an enigmatic screenwriter and alt-right agitator, becomes the focal point of the narrator’s anxieties. He first encounters Anton remotely, when he starts to watch a television series entitled Blue Lives. A police drama written by Anton,