With the Next Man Everything Will Be Different, Eva Heller’s satiric comedy (which spent almost four years on the German best-seller list) begins with a leaden fantasy in which her heroine imagines herself as Princess Diana waking up beside Prince Charles. It’s an embarrassing idea poorly executed, but the reader who perseveres will be rewarded with something better: Around the time that Constance, the 27-year- old film student heroine, is advised by a friend not to read Anna Karenina (”It has such a terrible end. And besides, I don’t think you’d like it”), the novel starts to be fun.
Politically aware, earnest, not too bright, Constance longs for love in a way that she knows is politically incorrect. She tries to find it by alternately following the conventional wisdom of her society and her own flawed instincts. Why was this book such a success in Germany? Possibly because it takes two generations’ orthodoxies about women and satirizes them both. Heller knows that women who first rejected their mothers’ ”If you give in to him he won’t respect you” did not find ”A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” noticeably more helpful when dealing with matters of the heart. B