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An audacious debut that combines spycraft, betrayals, and reversals to show that sometimes it's the secret that destroys you On November 9, 1989, Bernd Zeiger, a Stasi officer in the twilight of his career, is deteriorating from a mysterious illness. Alarmed by the disappearance of Lara, a young waitress at his regular café with whom he is obsessed, he chases a series of cl An audacious debut that combines spycraft, betrayals, and reversals to show that sometimes it's the secret that destroys you On November 9, 1989, Bernd Zeiger, a Stasi officer in the twilight of his career, is deteriorating from a mysterious illness. Alarmed by the disappearance of Lara, a young waitress at his regular café with whom he is obsessed, he chases a series of clues throughout Berlin. The details of Lara's vanishing trigger flashbacks to his entanglement with Johannes Held, a physicist who, twenty-five years earlier, infiltrated an American research institute dedicated to weaponizing the paranormal Now, on the day the Berlin Wall falls and Zeiger's mind begins to crumble, his past transgressions have come back to haunt him. Who is the real Lara, what happened to her, and what is her connection to these events? As the surveiller becomes the surveilled, all will be revealed, with shocking consequences. Set in the final, turbulent days of the Cold War, The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures blends the high-wire espionage of John le Carré with the brilliant absurdist humor of Milan Kundera to evoke the dehumanizing forces that turned neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend. Jennifer Hofmann's debut is an affecting, layered investigation of conscience and country.


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An audacious debut that combines spycraft, betrayals, and reversals to show that sometimes it's the secret that destroys you On November 9, 1989, Bernd Zeiger, a Stasi officer in the twilight of his career, is deteriorating from a mysterious illness. Alarmed by the disappearance of Lara, a young waitress at his regular café with whom he is obsessed, he chases a series of cl An audacious debut that combines spycraft, betrayals, and reversals to show that sometimes it's the secret that destroys you On November 9, 1989, Bernd Zeiger, a Stasi officer in the twilight of his career, is deteriorating from a mysterious illness. Alarmed by the disappearance of Lara, a young waitress at his regular café with whom he is obsessed, he chases a series of clues throughout Berlin. The details of Lara's vanishing trigger flashbacks to his entanglement with Johannes Held, a physicist who, twenty-five years earlier, infiltrated an American research institute dedicated to weaponizing the paranormal Now, on the day the Berlin Wall falls and Zeiger's mind begins to crumble, his past transgressions have come back to haunt him. Who is the real Lara, what happened to her, and what is her connection to these events? As the surveiller becomes the surveilled, all will be revealed, with shocking consequences. Set in the final, turbulent days of the Cold War, The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures blends the high-wire espionage of John le Carré with the brilliant absurdist humor of Milan Kundera to evoke the dehumanizing forces that turned neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend. Jennifer Hofmann's debut is an affecting, layered investigation of conscience and country.

30 review for The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    After months of nerve-racking social isolation and a gazillion unhinged tweets from President Trump, “The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures” may sound like the last book you want to read right now. But in this era of death and gaslighting, there’s something cathartic about Jennifer Hofmann’s debut novel. She’s created a story that John le Carré might have written for “The Twilight Zone,” the tale of a spy who comes in from the cold while his world turns inside out. Bernd Zeiger is an e After months of nerve-racking social isolation and a gazillion unhinged tweets from President Trump, “The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures” may sound like the last book you want to read right now. But in this era of death and gaslighting, there’s something cathartic about Jennifer Hofmann’s debut novel. She’s created a story that John le Carré might have written for “The Twilight Zone,” the tale of a spy who comes in from the cold while his world turns inside out. Bernd Zeiger is an experienced agent for the Stasi, an organization infamous for its creative cruelty in East Berlin. Early in his career, he composed a foundational text for the secret police, a guide to psychological torment called “Manual for Demoralization and Disintegration Procedures.” His one and only accomplishment in life, it’s a “work of pure genius,” a vast collection of subtle techniques such as planting “forged photographs depicting the subject in a questionable embrace with children, a neighbor’s wife, or a pet, strategically propped on. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Louise Wilson

    On November 9th, Bernrd Zeiger, a Stasi officer in the twilight of his career, is deteriorating from a mysterious illness. Alarmed by the disappearance of Lara, a young waitress at his regular cafe with whom he was obsessed, he chases a series of clues throughout Berlin. Now, on the day the Berlin wall falls, Zeiger's mind begins to crumble, his past transgressions come back to haunt him. Who is the real Lara and what happened to her? What is her connection to there events.? Bernrd Zeiger seems t On November 9th, Bernrd Zeiger, a Stasi officer in the twilight of his career, is deteriorating from a mysterious illness. Alarmed by the disappearance of Lara, a young waitress at his regular cafe with whom he was obsessed, he chases a series of clues throughout Berlin. Now, on the day the Berlin wall falls, Zeiger's mind begins to crumble, his past transgressions come back to haunt him. Who is the real Lara and what happened to her? What is her connection to there events.? Bernrd Zeiger seems to have ill health. He's desperate to find Lara, the waitress at his local cafe. But who is Lara and what does Zeiger want her for? The book certainly makes you think as it veers off in different directions. The story is not what I thought it was going to be but I still enjoyed it. I would like to thank NetGalley, Quercus Books and the author Jennifer Hofmann for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Breinholt Dorrough

    The book isn't the straightforward spy novel the blurb leads you to expect -- it's much more, and I admire Hofmann for her originality. While for the first 100 pages you think you're reading a spy novel or a thriller, you end up reading a descent into madness, or perhaps an ascent from madness. Maybe it's a true retelling of preposterous events, maybe it's a delusional record of a dying man's last day. You can't quite be sure. Clearly Hofmann wasn't going for a typical story resolution. You have The book isn't the straightforward spy novel the blurb leads you to expect -- it's much more, and I admire Hofmann for her originality. While for the first 100 pages you think you're reading a spy novel or a thriller, you end up reading a descent into madness, or perhaps an ascent from madness. Maybe it's a true retelling of preposterous events, maybe it's a delusional record of a dying man's last day. You can't quite be sure. Clearly Hofmann wasn't going for a typical story resolution. You have no idea what happens to a lot of the characters, and that appositely reflects how most people living in East Berlin at the time had no idea what happened to their neighbors and family. Those who fled fled in secret; those who were dispatched were dispatched in secret. The departed might have simply departed, or they might be departed. Maybe both. People really might as well have teleported away for all they knew. This novel dexterously captures the paranoia and sudden reversals of fate of 1980s Berlin. Hofmann demonstrates excellent use of language. Plenty of precise verbs to go around. One of my favorite lines: "From his inner coat pocket, Zeigler retrieved his cigarettes, fumbled one into his mouth, lit it. The crack in the window sucked out the smoke. The world outside was a vacuum." This evokes the imagery of the Stasi sucking away the very breath of all those who lived behind the Berlin wall, a vacuum that could never be satiated.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tripfiction

    Novel set in EAST BERLIN I spend a lot of time in Berlin and I really love to read novels that are set there. Books with a strong sense of the city have helped particularly during Lockdown to connect when virtual travel is the only possibility. So I was delighted to discover this new novel set in East Berlin, set on the day the Berlin Wall was about to fall. The characters naturally do not know this. Since its instigation in the early 1960s, the regime in the East was paranoid, hierarchical and bu Novel set in EAST BERLIN I spend a lot of time in Berlin and I really love to read novels that are set there. Books with a strong sense of the city have helped particularly during Lockdown to connect when virtual travel is the only possibility. So I was delighted to discover this new novel set in East Berlin, set on the day the Berlin Wall was about to fall. The characters naturally do not know this. Since its instigation in the early 1960s, the regime in the East was paranoid, hierarchical and bureaucratic, aiming to induce a state of fear and terror into the populace. Its main weapon to keep the masses under control was to encourage paranoia. Bernd Zeiger is an experienced Stasi agent, who some years ago wrote the eponymous work of the title. Now filed in the bowels of the ministry, it is a dossier dedicated to the ploys of psychological terror: strategies were devised to make any given victim lose their sense of self, question their life’s beliefs, undermine their understanding of the world and their place in it. Never mind the victims, however, the reader will come to feel a sense of alienation and discombobulation as the story unfolds. The Stasi were masters at turning the screws, both physically and psychologically on anyone who held a different belief system – people ‘went missing’ through suicide; the fortunate managed to escape across the wall, the less fortunate people were made to disappear, often to Hohenschönhausen, the Stasi headquarters (now a Memorial which you can visit and still get a sense of the bleak walls that reverberate with screams and pain of those held there). Zeiger himself is searching for Lara who has simply disappeared from the face of the earth…. Zeiger has been tasked with gaining a confession from Held (meaning hero in German. A deliberate use of the word Held, I imagine?), who went to a military base in Arizona to investigate claims of teleportation. As Zeiger interrogates him, a strange friendship evolves. The setting of course is perfect for this surreal story, set over the period of one day, the 9th November 1989. It is at times Kafka-esque and I often wondered what on earth was going on. The author perhaps employs the Brechtian alienation device, keeping readers at arm’s length so they might critically engage with the narrative. The reading experience is, really, quite phantasmagorical. Interestingly, the author is of both American and German heritage and the device she seems to employ here is to pen her story in the German language and literally translate, sometimes word for word, into American (be warned, it’s not English, which can lead to further confusion). Does this work? Well, no. It can make for an impenetrable and incoherent writing style that so often feels (to my mind) like a poor translation rather than a clever piece of writing. I speak German, I have translated from German, so I am familiar with both languages and therefore I could, for the most part, see the pattern emerging. For example. One of the characters was talking in dialect. Would someone have a “Dresden twinge”? (I think twang was intended). And. “…did they think we had tomatoes on our eyes?..” is a nice little German idiom that really does not translate literally. Further. “..his face was black and illegible..” – illegible is the perfect word for word translation from German but in fact in English illegible is, I believe, only used in the sense of writing and words, not facial expressions. Inscrutable, maybe? By this point I was rather flummoxed by the style. There is a character called simply The Punk, which in American has a wholly different to the English version, which further muddled my reading experience. The clanger and wake up call for me was, however, the description of someone swimming in the “East Sea”. That translates literally into German as “Ostsee” and if you translate it back once again into English correctly, it comes out as “The Baltic Sea”. This is the first translation issue that any student of German learns really early on. Do you see my exasperation? Sometimes the combining of words was so obscure and seemingly arbitrary, that I had no idea what was going on. Adjectives were used that somehow didn’t fit with their noun. Either the novel felt a bit mad (the Stasi era often felt “mad”) or I myself was starting to go mad. I prefer to think the former is at issue. So, I will take my “dangerous cheekbones” and “primatial calm” (nope, I don’t know what that means either) and stoke up my coffee cooker. I suspect the author wanted to offer the reader the Stasi experience of living in East Berlin through discombobulating fiction; she thus imbues her prose with devices to alienate, obfuscate and confuse, some of the elements which prevailed in the era. You will, I think, also need to know a reasonable amount about East Germany and its politics to understand the gist at certain points and a smattering of German would also be a bonus. The studied, conscious construct in this novel just did not work for me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. Well, this summer read will certainly stand out for its ability to go in a direction that I didn't see coming. We are introduced to Bernrd Zeiger, a Stasi officer who seems to be in ailing health and is fixated on the disappearance of a coffee shop waitress named Lara. Who is Lara? What does Zeiger want with her? What exactly was Zeiger involved in? Although the story seems like it will be a strai Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. Well, this summer read will certainly stand out for its ability to go in a direction that I didn't see coming. We are introduced to Bernrd Zeiger, a Stasi officer who seems to be in ailing health and is fixated on the disappearance of a coffee shop waitress named Lara. Who is Lara? What does Zeiger want with her? What exactly was Zeiger involved in? Although the story seems like it will be a straight forward cold war spy thriller, it veered off in a direction that encourages readers to use their imaginations. It certainly leads to a memorable debut for Jennifer Hofmann and there is a quirkiness to the characters and the writing that makes even the darkest moments seem light. Goodreads review published 21/07/20 Expected publication 11/08/20 #TheStandardizationofDemoralizationProcedures #NetGalley

  6. 4 out of 5

    AC

    This book is getting some excellent reviews — they’ve found a new literary star to exploit. Young, pretty, smart. Will look good on TV and podcasts. For me, though, the book didn’t work — pretentious and unconvincing. And a little boring... Others may like it more.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Maine Colonial

    The tone of this novel captures the isolation and alienation of life in the surveillance state of East Germany. It’s (mostly) set just before the Berlin Wall fell, so you do see cracks in the tight controls over the populace. People are heading in droves for Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which allows them to seek asylum in consulates of western countries, or to slip over the border into Austria. Criticism of the state is heard more, which is saying something considering that Zeiger, the main chara The tone of this novel captures the isolation and alienation of life in the surveillance state of East Germany. It’s (mostly) set just before the Berlin Wall fell, so you do see cracks in the tight controls over the populace. People are heading in droves for Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which allows them to seek asylum in consulates of western countries, or to slip over the border into Austria. Criticism of the state is heard more, which is saying something considering that Zeiger, the main character, is an agent for the Stasi, the state security bureau, and that’s not exactly a big secret among his neighbors and the places he frequents. I picked this book because I’ve always been fascinated by East Germany, and East Berlin in particular. It’s such a strange situation, to go from a totalitarian Nazi regime to communist rule, especially communist rule dominated by the Russians. And to live right next to other Germans in the west, who live completely differently. It had to do a number on people’s heads. And Zeiger does seem like a head case, more and more as the novel goes on. The author of the eponymous manual for the Stasi (which the novel calls Management) to use to break down subjects, he is breaking down himself, and especially so on the one day that takes up nearly all of the novel’s action. His thoughts are focused on Lara, a young waitress at his regular lunch spot. Lara has been missing for awhile. At around the book’s halfway mark, there is a long story about a young physicist named Held, who was imprisoned and tortured by the Stasi after he returned from a research trip to the US, in Arizona. This occurred early in Zeiger’s career and has had a profound effect on his psyche. Though the Held history is key to later plot developments, the description of Held’s time in Arizona seems too long. Held’s whole Arizona experience seems so bizarre, too, that it doesn’t feel realistic. I suppose that’s part of the absurdist tone of the novel, but it didn’t impress me favorably. I’m concerned that this novel will not make much sense to anyone who isn’t fairly knowledgeable about East Germany, the Stasi and, in particular, the events leading up to the end of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989. The word Stasi isn’t even specifically mentioned until well over halfway through the book, despite the fact that Zeiger is a Stasi agent. There are oblique references to the increasing numbers leaving East Germany via neighboring Iron Curtain neighbors, and there are also references to people like Schabowski, long before you get to the part where he is unwittingly instrumental in causing the Wall to come down. I thought the book was an interesting study of the toll on the main character’s mental state his service to totalitarianism caused. However, it was too obscure much of the time and I think it will have difficulty finding an audience.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    In a world of spycraft, betrayals, and reversals, a Stasi officer is unravelled by the cruel system he served and by the revelation of a decades-old secret. On November 9, 1989, Bernd Zeiger, a Stasi officer in the twilight of his career, is deteriorating from a mysterious illness. Alarmed by the disappearance of Lara, a young waitress at his regular café with whom he is obsessed, he chases a series of clues throughout Berlin. The details of Lara’s vanishing trigger flashbacks to his entanglemen In a world of spycraft, betrayals, and reversals, a Stasi officer is unravelled by the cruel system he served and by the revelation of a decades-old secret. On November 9, 1989, Bernd Zeiger, a Stasi officer in the twilight of his career, is deteriorating from a mysterious illness. Alarmed by the disappearance of Lara, a young waitress at his regular café with whom he is obsessed, he chases a series of clues throughout Berlin. The details of Lara’s vanishing trigger flashbacks to his entanglement with Johannes Held, a physicist who, twenty-five years earlier, infiltrated an American research institute dedicated to weaponizing the paranormal. Now, on the day the Berlin Wall falls and Zeiger’s mind begins to crumble, his past transgressions have come back to haunt him. Who is the real Lara, what happened to her, and what is her connection to these events? As the surveiller becomes the surveilled, the mystery is both solved and deepened, with unexpected consequences. The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures is a thriller set against the backdrop of the last, chaotic Cold War days in East Germany and effortlessly blends high-stakes espionage and surrealist humour. It's every bit as stirring as a le Carré novel and given this is a debut I find it even more impressive how intelligent, sophisticated and gripping it was. Granted, it took a little longer than usual to be hooked as the author took the time to set the scene but once the story progressed I was quickly caught up in the whirlwind of danger, excitement and adrenaline-pumping action. It's a profound novel with a complex and fascinating central character in Zeiger. Dark and haunting, this is a book for those who enjoy bizarre fiction with a touch of class. Above all, it teaches us that no matter how adverse and dehumanising the situation there are always those willing to resist, rebel and fight to the death for what they believe in. Many thanks to riverrun for an ARC.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David C Ward

    If Kafka didn’t exist we’d have to invent him to describe novels like this, but what Hofman invents is derived from the history - and fall - of East Germany: the surveillance state in which everyone spies on everyone else. Excellent not least in its unpleasantness - grey, fat, flaccid, the stink of a system in entropy and final collapse. The surrealism of the theme of teleportation and transcendence is not quite as sharply developed except as a metaphor for flight and escape. A metaphor, unless If Kafka didn’t exist we’d have to invent him to describe novels like this, but what Hofman invents is derived from the history - and fall - of East Germany: the surveillance state in which everyone spies on everyone else. Excellent not least in its unpleasantness - grey, fat, flaccid, the stink of a system in entropy and final collapse. The surrealism of the theme of teleportation and transcendence is not quite as sharply developed except as a metaphor for flight and escape. A metaphor, unless it worked of course.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kathi Hansen

    A debut literary tour de force! Seen through the lens of Stasi officer Bernd Zeiger, the story unfolds in Berlin on the day the wall came down. In the course of his frantic search for the suddenly vanished young waitress with whom he's become obsessed, Zeiger follows clues that force him to examine the role he's played not just in her disappearance, but in assisting the repressive efforts of 'the party.' Zeiger, it seems, was tasked with assisting in the psychological destruction of dissidents. A debut literary tour de force! Seen through the lens of Stasi officer Bernd Zeiger, the story unfolds in Berlin on the day the wall came down. In the course of his frantic search for the suddenly vanished young waitress with whom he's become obsessed, Zeiger follows clues that force him to examine the role he's played not just in her disappearance, but in assisting the repressive efforts of 'the party.' Zeiger, it seems, was tasked with assisting in the psychological destruction of dissidents. This complex and intellectual journey has the unmistakable markings of a spy thriller, but it's so much more than that. Hofmann's prose is exquisite, her characters complex and deeply human, and her ability to evoke place and time, unlike anything you'll have recently read. This book examines a dark part of German (and American) history with a unique and fresh perspective. It's moving and provocative and a profoundly satisfying read. As soon as I finished the last sentence, I started the book all over again. Count me a card-carrying member of the Jennifer Hofmann Fan Club!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nichole Lau

    I love this book. I’m a real sucker for Cold War novels – especially ones dealing with the end of East Germany. Maybe it’s because I’m a child of the Cold War or that I actually visited the GDR in the mid 80s but I love reading about its downfall and seeing movies about ithe same. This book was interesting, took some real turns, had some really fleshed out characters. The author is so young and yet it feels like it was written by somebody a lot older.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I am a sucker for a book with a really good title. Perhaps I shouldn't judge a book by its cover (or even more so its title) because, sadly, 'The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures' just didn't really work for me. I wanted to like it. I wanted to find bits of it funny and other bits intriguing but way too much just went right over my head. I'm entirely willing to be persuaded that this is a very clever book; sadly, it might have been the wrong kind of clever for me. The story is set in E I am a sucker for a book with a really good title. Perhaps I shouldn't judge a book by its cover (or even more so its title) because, sadly, 'The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures' just didn't really work for me. I wanted to like it. I wanted to find bits of it funny and other bits intriguing but way too much just went right over my head. I'm entirely willing to be persuaded that this is a very clever book; sadly, it might have been the wrong kind of clever for me. The story is set in East Berlin, not too long before the wall will come down. That DID work for me. I was in Budapest just a few months before everything changed. It's also set earlier, in the days of the Stasi knowing everything about everybody and using it to their advantage. Our rather low key 'hero' is Zeiger, the man who wrote the book (literally) on controlling people through demoralisation techniques. I think I 'got' that joke but not too many others. I liked his friend Held who might - or might not - have known the secret of teleportation - and the young woman at the cafe nearby where Zeiger liked to hang out. Her link to the story was quite clever. On the whole, though, the biggest problem was I couldn't really find any reason to actually CARE about any of the characters. I felt like I was reading somebody's overly long thought experiment rather than a novel. I received a free ARC from Netgalley and the publishers in return for an honest review. I'm sorry I didn't like it better.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Scott Wilson

    A comic, lightly absurdist, cleverly symbolic, emotionally astute novel set in East Germany mostly on the day the Berlin Wall fell? Great, sign me up. In trying to recall the impetus for requesting Hofmann's debut from the library (it took a few months for this to end up on my nightstand), I read again a very favorable August NYT review. I probably clicked "hold" on the library's site before I finished reading this paragraph in the review's first third (emphasis mine because, yeah, the whole boo A comic, lightly absurdist, cleverly symbolic, emotionally astute novel set in East Germany mostly on the day the Berlin Wall fell? Great, sign me up. In trying to recall the impetus for requesting Hofmann's debut from the library (it took a few months for this to end up on my nightstand), I read again a very favorable August NYT review. I probably clicked "hold" on the library's site before I finished reading this paragraph in the review's first third (emphasis mine because, yeah, the whole book is this entertaining): But Zeiger, who like most of his fellow East Germans drives a Trabant and drinks Kaffee Mix (a mixture of “coffee, pea flour and disgrace”), is himself on the verge of dissolution. Suffering from chills, aches, seizures and nosebleeds, he senses his own approaching death, as noxious as the “air of quiet catastrophe” on his street, where the specter of Chernobyl lingers. He moves through the city invisible and soundless, alienated from both his surroundings and himself. I loved this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Pop Bop

    Cat and Mouse, Where Everyone's a Mouse, (and a Cat) This is the sort of book that tempts you to overanalyze and overdescribe. At bottom, though, it seems to me that our hero, Zeiger, and East Germany, should just be viewed as interchangeable. Zeiger embodies and manifests all of that country's weaknesses and contradictions, and Zeiger's status as a Stasi agent means he embodies especially all of the darkest aspects and instincts of East Germany. The book is set on one day, November 9, 1989, whic Cat and Mouse, Where Everyone's a Mouse, (and a Cat) This is the sort of book that tempts you to overanalyze and overdescribe. At bottom, though, it seems to me that our hero, Zeiger, and East Germany, should just be viewed as interchangeable. Zeiger embodies and manifests all of that country's weaknesses and contradictions, and Zeiger's status as a Stasi agent means he embodies especially all of the darkest aspects and instincts of East Germany. The book is set on one day, November 9, 1989, which is the day the Berlin Wall came down and East Germany began to disappear. As you might expect, that was also the day when Zeiger's mental walls finally cracked and came down and he began to disappear. We follow Zeiger through his day, with flashbacks, betrayals, mysteries, absurd events, cryptic conversations, and so on. All of the incidents of that day - real, imagined, magical, mystical, and inexplicable - mirror what is happening on the ground in East Germany. As everything falls apart, and as all of the rottenness is exposed - so it is with East Germany and with Zeiger. There are some remarkable and impressive set pieces, and memorable asides and passing descriptions and observations, but it is the irresistible tide of collapse that will stay with you. Of course there are lots of ways for an author to approach this sort of thing. Here, we start out grim and bleak and hyper-realistic. The day slowly deteriorates and Zeiger slowly deteriorates, and as this happens the writing becomes more disjointed and fabulous. What was especially interesting, at least to me, is that the grim and bleak grayness and despair of everyone and everything carried through the entire book, and even informed the end. Bleak magical realism is hard to write, and sometimes hard to read, but this was so well and memorably done that you'll feel like you have to warm your hands when you set this book down. So, this is one of those books that is fun to read, rewarding to think about, and challenging to talk and write about. But tell no one else unless you're absolutely sure you can trust them. (Please note that I received a free ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Will

    I have mixed feelings about this novel. It takes place during the Cold War, and follows the story of a man named Zeigler who is the author of a manual that is used by the secret police in East Berlin meant to psychologically torment people (or enemies of the state). The story here has a kind of mystical aspect to it in that there is also a mystery about how certain people seem to vanish into thin air. That said, the one aspect of this novel that gives me pause comes to me by the way of a characte I have mixed feelings about this novel. It takes place during the Cold War, and follows the story of a man named Zeigler who is the author of a manual that is used by the secret police in East Berlin meant to psychologically torment people (or enemies of the state). The story here has a kind of mystical aspect to it in that there is also a mystery about how certain people seem to vanish into thin air. That said, the one aspect of this novel that gives me pause comes to me by the way of a character named Schreibmuller. Schreibmuller is blind, and although he is sorta multi-dimensional his disability is by far the thing that is most unique about him. And his blindness is constantly being described in the narration, which I think is meant to be humorous (the book is darkly funny in some regards) but the subtle comedic shots at this man’s disability felt a little off-putting to me. (And maybe I am too sensitive in this regard, so please take this with a grain of salt). His blindness is also plays a role in the function of the story’s plot, and therefore there are ample descriptions of his eyes which are described as “milky” or as “blank,” etc. Outside of this, there are many aspects to this novel that are praise-worthy. I think there’s a lovely cadence to the sentences (I’ve even highlighted out some of my favorites). I would also read something by Jennifer Hofmann again (you can tell by the quality of the prose and the attention to setting and dialogue that she knows what she’s doing), although I don’t think this is a novel I would read twice. All in all, I think it’s worthy of a read— but not something I could rave about.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Paul Gormley

    Zieger is an ageing Stasi bureaucrat, author of the eponymous manual, convinced he is dying and strangely obsessed with a young waitress. As the Berlin Wall crumbles, so does Zeiger's undrstanding of his life and his relationships. There are links to the fate of an East German mathematician, Held (German for hero), who is betrayed by Zieger during an investigation into US research into teleportation. This is a rather strange book, as the title might indicate. Zieger's manual lists a series of str Zieger is an ageing Stasi bureaucrat, author of the eponymous manual, convinced he is dying and strangely obsessed with a young waitress. As the Berlin Wall crumbles, so does Zeiger's undrstanding of his life and his relationships. There are links to the fate of an East German mathematician, Held (German for hero), who is betrayed by Zieger during an investigation into US research into teleportation. This is a rather strange book, as the title might indicate. Zieger's manual lists a series of strategies to weaken the resolve of suspects underinterrogation and at times it feels like such straategies are being perpetrated on the reader. The pacing is plodding and the text full of extraneous and unnecessary detail. The text itself reads like a translation of a German document, with odd phrasings and literal translations. It's difficult to sense what the author is trying to achieve. Many readrs will already know of the paranoia of the East German state and the treachery of neighbours spying on each other. However, the banality of evil is well expressed in the actions of the many Stasi bureaucrats. There is little evidence of the dark humour promised and the ending is biarre and confusing. (I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Pearce

    Set at the end of the cold war and the eminent demise of the GDR-East Germany, The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures, by Jennifer Hofmann, tell the tale of one Bernd Zeiger, a Stazi technocrat and author of the manual with the same title as this book. It is, as most books dealing with surveillance states, filled with the sense of performance and ennui that comes from being watched and evaluated every moment of the day by neighbors, coworkers and the state. It also delves into disappea Set at the end of the cold war and the eminent demise of the GDR-East Germany, The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures, by Jennifer Hofmann, tell the tale of one Bernd Zeiger, a Stazi technocrat and author of the manual with the same title as this book. It is, as most books dealing with surveillance states, filled with the sense of performance and ennui that comes from being watched and evaluated every moment of the day by neighbors, coworkers and the state. It also delves into disappearance, another common topic in books of this kind; in this case teleportation as a descriptor for those that vanish. Plotwise, the story is about Zeiger and an ill-fated physicist named Held, who may or may not have discovered teleportation while working in the US, and Zeiger's quest to find a missing woman named Lara. It's all interconnected and Hofmann does a good job in taking us along for the ride.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    On the surface, the absurd and the surreal seem self-indulgent. Works in this group are highly self-referential. They only make sense if you forget everything outside of the work. You have to forget reality to understand them. Jennifer Hofmann’s haunting novel, The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures, is a good example of why we need surrealism. As Kafka, Magritte, and the rest knew, sometimes the only way to communicate the insanity of daily modern life is to create something just as i On the surface, the absurd and the surreal seem self-indulgent. Works in this group are highly self-referential. They only make sense if you forget everything outside of the work. You have to forget reality to understand them. Jennifer Hofmann’s haunting novel, The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures, is a good example of why we need surrealism. As Kafka, Magritte, and the rest knew, sometimes the only way to communicate the insanity of daily modern life is to create something just as insane... Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jill Elizabeth

    Okay this was not even remotely what the blurb led me to expect it would be... There is some snark and witticism here, I will give Hofmann that. But the references in the blurb to secrets and lies and fast pacing and child war spy classics and paranormal investigations and flashbacks all got subsumed by a mind-numbing attention to detail that made me feel like I myself was reading the eponymous demoralization principles... This one just was not for me. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my Okay this was not even remotely what the blurb led me to expect it would be... There is some snark and witticism here, I will give Hofmann that. But the references in the blurb to secrets and lies and fast pacing and child war spy classics and paranormal investigations and flashbacks all got subsumed by a mind-numbing attention to detail that made me feel like I myself was reading the eponymous demoralization principles... This one just was not for me. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my obligation - free review copy.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anne Goodwin

    It’s a strange story about a very strange culture, bizarre, but not quite as comic as I expected from the blurb. However, I loved the exposé of how Zeiger discovered the material for the manual via the frustrations of attempting to collaborate on the task with a doctor at the asylum. https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post... It’s a strange story about a very strange culture, bizarre, but not quite as comic as I expected from the blurb. However, I loved the exposé of how Zeiger discovered the material for the manual via the frustrations of attempting to collaborate on the task with a doctor at the asylum. https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kurt Achin

    Just a bit too contrived and inaccessible for me. Exhausting lurches back and forth in time, and too many threads to weave together without engaging me enough to want to do that work. The author clearly has skill but this just did not resonate with me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    David

    Not sure how to rate this. An odd book, found it hard to get into, the protagonist is suffering from onset of dementia and so it jumps around in was that make it hard to read, but ingenious too. As the core story is revealed I was more gripped by the tale.

  23. 4 out of 5

    AZ Spencer

    Absolutely brilliant.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nate Stearns

    Spiky...but impressive

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Carano

    Won the book on Goodreads, never received it. So I guess I cannot review it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Graham

    smart. but not my taste. eager to see what this author does next

  27. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Just couldn't get engaged in this. DNF but no rating (to be fair).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Martha Steele

    So completely unlike anything else I have ever read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The audio was excellent as well. This read is not for everyone, but for me it was a great fit.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Irma Sturgell

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

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