Thursday, February 01, 2007

Pg. 69: "Liberation Movements"

Olen Steinhauer is the author of an acclaimed five-novel series chronicling Cold War Eastern Europe.

Liberation Movements, the fourth volume in the series, was published in 2006. Olen was kind enough to put his novel to the "page 69 test." Here is what he found:
Liberation Movements follows five different stories that take place from 1968 to 1975, in both Eastern Europe and Istanbul. One aim was to show how they connect and reconnect, having unpredictable repercussions on one another. So when I looked for page 69, I had no idea whose tale I’d end up staring at.

It turns out that page 69 plays out in the Obecní Dům—the Municipal House—a cavernous, gilded café in the center of Prague, in 1968, just days after the end of the Prague Spring. Nowadays, the café has a kind of quaint touristy glamour, but during the sixties, it was haunted largely by communist bureaucrats.

A conversation is ending between one of the main characters, Peter Husák, and an intimidating officer who recently interrogated him in a stone cell, Captain Poborsky. The captain is trying to convince Peter to spy against his democratic friends.

During his argument, the captain states one central theme of the book:

“You know, I'm told all the time that everything is political. Man, our socialist teachers explain, is a political animal, and, in fact, the personal is the political. But between you and me, I've never believed that. The political, in fact, is really only the personal dressed up in more flamboyant clothes. There is no political man, only men, whose politics grow from their personal traumas. You follow me?”

Despite the impression this excerpt may give, the book isn’t actually full of philosophizing. There’s sex, murder, airplane terrorism, a few laughs, revenge, and ESP. Also, plenty of lengthy sideburns. Kinda like life.

And while Peter’s story is only a small part of Liberation Movements, it reflects and coerces the other tales that take place seven years later. We watch as a young man lacking clear convictions turns gradually to immorality and, by 1975, to real evil.
Many thanks to Olen for the input.

Read a Chapter One excerpt and a longer excerpt.

Liberation Movements made the 2006 Best-of Lists at the Chicago Tribune, January Magazine, The National Review, and Critical Mass.

It is a finalist for the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Novel of the Year.

Among the praise for the novel:
I'm not sure exactly what first prompted American novelist Olen Steinhauer to use the crime fiction form to tell the story of the rise and fall of Communist ideology in an unnamed Eastern European country [...] Whatever the reason, it was an inspired choice--giving history and politics a chance to simmer over the flame of murder. [...] Steinhauer's first three books caught the frustration and bleakness of their Eastern European setting to heartbreaking perfection. He underscores those qualities this time with contrasting scenes of a Turkish capital bursting with life and some semblance of hope. And the irony which has colored the series to such strong effect is even more evident in "Liberation Movements." [...This is a] most important series.
--Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune

"Liberation Movements...should put Steinhauer squarely in the front of the pack of today's espionage writers."
--Paula Woods, LA Times

Steinhauer's elegant spy novel Liberation Movements is imbued with a retro kind of cool. [...] It is a tight, neatly structured story, built around the lives of very Cold War characters, individuals effaced by the secrecy of their professions and the cynicism of their nation. But Liberation Movements is not so cold or so neat, for all that. At its heart is a messy, human revenge plot that is as captivating as it is unlikely to end happily.
--Anna Godbersen, Esquire
Read a set of Olen's notes about the novel.

Victory Square, the fifth and final volume in the series, is due out later this year.

Visit Olen's official website, his blog, and Contemporary Nomad, a group blog.

Previous "page 69 tests:"
Andrei Markovits, Uncouth Nation
Julie Kistler, Scandal
Robert Ward, Four Kinds of Rain
Tim Harford, The Undercover Economist
William Landay, The Strangler
Kate Holden, In My Skin
Brian Wansick, Mindless Eating
Noria Jablonski, Human Oddities
Ruth Scurr, Fatal Purity
Neal Pollack, Alternadad
Bella DePaulo, Singled Out
Steve Hamilton, A Stolen Season
Eric Klinenberg, Fighting for Air
Donna Moore, ...Go to Helena Handbasket
Louis Bayard, The Pale Blue Eye
Neal Thompson, Riding with the Devil
Sherry Argov, Why Men Marry Bitches
P.J. Parrish, An Unquiet Grave
Tyler Knox, Kockroach
Andrew Rehfeld, The Concept of Constituency
Laura Wiess, Such a Pretty Girl
Jeremy Blachman, Anonymous Lawyer
Andrew Pyper, The Wildfire Season
Wendy Werris, An Alphabetical Life
Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know
Meghan Daum, The Quality of Life Report
Scott Reynolds Nelson, Steel Drivin' Man
Richard Aleas, Little Girl Lost
Paul Collins, The Trouble With Tom
John McFetridge, Dirty Sweet
Michael Kazin, A Godly Hero
Bill Crider, Murder Among the OWLS
Zachary Shore, Breeding Bin Ladens
Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
Matt Haig, The Dead Fathers Club
Lawrence Light, Fear & Greed
Simon Read, In The Dark
Sandra Ruttan, Suspicious Circumstances
Henry Ansgar Kelly, Satan: A Biography
Alison Gaylin, You Kill Me
Gayle Lynds, The Last Spymaster
Jim Lehrer, The Phony Marine
Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.
Debra Ginsberg, Blind Submission
Sarah Katherine Lewis, Indecent
Peter Orner, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo
William Easterly, The White Man's Burden
Danielle Trussoni, Falling Through the Earth
Andrew Blechman, Pigeons
Anne Perry, A Christmas Secret
Elaine Showalter, Faculty Towers
Kat Richardson, Greywalker
Michael Bess, Choices Under Fire
Masha Hamilton, The Camel Bookmobile
Alex Beam, Gracefully Insane
Nicholas Lemann, Redemption
Jason Sokol, There Goes My Everything
Wendy Steiner, Venus in Exile
Josh Chafetz, Democracy’s Privileged Few
Anne Frasier, Pale Immortal
Michael Lewis, The Blind Side
David A. Bell, The First Total War
Brett Ellen Block, The Lightning Rule
Rosanna Hertz, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice
Jason Starr, Lights Out
Robert Vitalis, America's Kingdom
Stephen Elliott, My Girlfriend Comes To The City And Beats Me Up
Colin McGinn, The Power of Movies
Sean Chercover, Big City, Bad Blood
Sigrid Nunez, The Last of Her Kind
Stanley Fish, How Milton Works
James Longenbach, The Resistance to Poetry
Margaret Lowrie Robertson, Season of Betrayal
Sy Montgomery, The Good Good Pig
Allison Burnett, The House Beautiful
Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History
Ed Lynskey, The Dirt-Brown Derby
Cindy Dyson, And She Was
Simon Blackburn, Truth
Brian Freeman, Stripped
Alyson M. Cole, The Cult of True Victimhood
Jeff Biggers, In the Sierra Madre
Jeff Broadwater, George Mason, Forgotten Founder
Alicia Steimberg, Andrea Labinger (trans.), The Rainforest
Michael Grunwald, The Swamp
Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History
Leo Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism
David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie
Leah Hager Cohen, Train Go Sorry
Chris Grabenstein, Slay Ride
David Helvarg, Blue Frontier
Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria
Bill Crider, A Mammoth Murder
Robert W. Bennett, Taming the Electoral College
Nicholas Stern et al, Stern Review Report
Kerry Emanuel, Divine Wind
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue