In the twilight years of Communist East Germany, Bruno Krug, a womanising 'People's Champion of Art and Culture' who once penned a world-famous novel, falls for Theresa Aden, a music student from the West. But Theresa has also caught the eye of a cocky young scriptwriter who delights in satirising Bruno's more recent, tamer offerings.
Asked to appraise a mysterious manuscript, Bruno is disconcerted to find that the author is none other than his rival. Worse than that the book is good - very good - but also subtly subversive. If his pursuit of Theresa is to end in triumph, Bruno decides he must employ a small deception. However, in the paranoid labyrinth of a police state, knowing the deceiver from the deceived, the betrayer from the betrayed isn't just difficult - it's a matter of life and death.