“Firstly, this is quite a surprise and secondly, after reading the book, a sensation. 'The Turncoat' is a brilliant novel, adding an impressive work to Lenz’s output, and thus to German postwar literature.” (Volker Weidermann, DER SPIEGEL, 27.02.2016)
It is the final summer of the war, and news from the eastern front is not good. Young soldier Walter Proska from the Masurian city of Lyck is assigned to a small unit that is charged with securing a railway line and has entrenched itself in a forest stronghold. Under the scorching heat, worn down by the constant attacks of mosquito swarms and partisans, and abandoned by their own troops, orders from the commanding non-commissioned officer become increasingly inhuman and meaningless. The soldiers attempt to turn inwards – one wages a futile battle with an enormous pike, while others lapse into insanity and longing for death. And Proska is confronted with increasingly urgent questions: what is more important, duty or conscience? Who is the real enemy? Is it possible to act without becoming guilty? And: where is Wanda, the Polish partisan girl he can’t get out of his mind?