In his late 50s, Eugen Ruge has come upon the international literary scene with an important, highly accomplished debut novel, “In Times of Fading Light,’’ about the Umnitzer family in what we knew as East Germany (formally the German Democratic Republic) from 1952 until 2001. Born in 1954 in the Urals, in Russia, Ruge lived his youth in the GDR, leaving in 1988. In the West he made his living as a translator and writer, and his first prose work, which grew into this novel, won the Alfred Doblin Prize in 2009. The book, published in Germany in 2011, won the German Book Prize that year.
The novel is aptly named, for the reading feels as if we are working our way through a photograph album — vignettes about various members of this family — as the light in their lives grows dimmer. And, as often happens as families evolve, the keenly observed details become sadder, sometimes grimmer, yet also funnier, strangely familiar, and definitely more bizarre.