Synopses & Reviews
Eduard Hoffman is a microbiologist with an interest in relationships. He believes he's found "a strain of separation virus" raging in West Berlin in 1983, which terminates every relationship within three years, 167 days, and 2 hours. As Eduard attempts to evade the virus, he tangles with Germany's Nazi guilt, memories of his father, a wayward mouse, and other threats to his identity in a divided country.
"A little Don Giovanni, a little café sociology, a little laboratory science, a little Berlin wit—it's a pleasant mix."—Suzanne Ruta, New York Times Book Review
"With its poignant valedictory to its protagonists' waning youth and its rueful placing of them in the firing line of history, Couplings achieves a balance of light and dark that is utterly persuasive."—Michael Upchurch, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
In his first novel, Couplings, Schneider turns his sharp eyes on the difficulties of love in the peculiar construct that was preunification Berlin. Eduard, a molecular biologist living in West Berlin, keeps a notebook entitled "A Concise Treatise on the Average Half-life of Love Relationships". The data he collects in it support only one conclusion: a strain of separation virus is raging in the walled city. "An initial rough estimate suggested that any given relationship had a maximum average life expectancy of three years, one hundred and sixty seven days, and two hours". With his friends Andre, an international composer, and Theo, a writer from East Berlin, Eduard makes a pact to fight the "dragon of separation" that seems to reign in Berlin. The man who fails to show up in a year with his current partner will finance an entire ski vacation for six people. Eduard vows to father six children with Klara; Andre, to marry Esther; and Theo, to have no connubial contact with his wife, Pauline. Of course nothing turns out as expected in this surprising and witty look at how the generation that came of age and rebelled in the sixties is coping with love and commitment.