Darkly comic and hauntingly surreal The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures examines obsession, paranoia and the dwindling career of a Stasi operative.
It is November 9th 1989 in East Berlin, the day the Berlin Wall will fall. Bernd Zeiger, a Stasi agent whose manual on the demoralisation of political opponents once made him renowned is now in the fading twilight of his career.
Twenty five years earlier a physicist, Johnnes Held had been sent by the East Germans to infiltrate a US military operation in the American desert, where teleportation and other paranormal activities were being investigated. Held had unknowingly fathered a child there, a fact Zeiger was aware of and when he returned and refused to divulge what he had learned, despite being tortured, Zeiger strangely became a sort of friend. But he would still betray him, a treachery that haunts him to this day.
Like many other officials and government functionaries Zeiger has been feeling strange, beginning to lose his grip on reality, a development he has tied to the disappearance of a cafe waitress for whom he has developed an attraction. This woman, Lara, who has been missing for a month has a surprising connection to Johannes Held. In his attempts to find her Zeiger will discover that he himself has been betrayed, as chaos breaks out, the Wall comes down and his carefully curated life unravels.
The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures brilliantly captures a moment when ideological winds shift and dogma and inhumanity reign.
The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures is a must-read for anyone looking for serious fiction that engages with the biggest issues of our times as well as a hilarious, humanist, gorgeously written treatise on the currents that stir the human soul under the direst circumstances. I read this book in almost a single breath, and it is easily the best novel I've encountered this year, brilliant and funny and profound, producing some of the most complex, fascinating characters I've ever known. As far as I'm concerned, the novel is an instant classic.