Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Philip Hensher's third novel, Pleasured is perhaps the finest literary response to one of the most momentous events of the post-war period. Set in Berlin months before the fall of the Wall, it follows the lives of a disparate collection of characters, centring on Friedrich Kaiser, a Generation X slacker living in the hedonistic atmosphere of Kreuzberg in West Berlin. Hitchhiking back to Berlin from Cologne over New Year, Friedrich strikes up an unlikely relationship with the mysterious, rotund Peter Picker and Daphne, a wannabe urban terrorist. As Friedrich's incongruous relationship with Picker blossoms, they hatch an unlikely plan to free East Berlin from its Stalinist grip through the introduction of a little joy in the shape of a bag of Ecstasy.
Pleasured will undoubtedly draw comparisons with Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin, with its brilliant evocation of 80s Berlin and the frustration and ennui which defines its comical, degenerate and often desperate collection of characters. Like Isherwood's novel Hensher vividly captures the Zeitgeist of Germany's painful reunification and the personal impact which the fall of the Wall had in both the East and the West. However, Pleasured is more than a meditation on the state of the German nation. It is also a wickedly observed comedy of manners, embracing drugs, terrorism, childhood, fatherhood and the vicissitudes of sexual identity in a series of elegantly drawn portraits and set pieces. Effortlessly written and beautifully structured, this is a great novel, which confirms Hensher as one of the finest novelists currently writing in English. -- Jerry Brotton [via]