Germany in the mid-90s. A demolition crew known as "the foreign legion" comes to the former border district where the remains of a village, evacuated in East German times, are to be cleared to make way for a cycle track. The members of the crew, a mixed bunch, among them a former engineer, are told by the locals that somebody is still living among the ruins: a man who never speaks to anybody but is constantly writing. The man is given 24 hours to leave, otherwise he will be removed with the rubble. The engineer, a loner and outsider, wants to prevent the worst and decides to enter the ruins at night-time.
Night in this no-man's-land is alive with stories. There is the story of the academic in the "foreign legion" who lost his job and his social position, and the story of his wife, driven by lack of love to seek a new beginning on her own. And there is the story of another woman, now a Berlin prostitute, whose husband disappeared in suspicious circumstances, and who is perpetually shadowed by a stranger seeking to eradicate anybody in possession of dangerous knowledge from the old days.
Reinhard Jirgl's novel Hundsnächte describes the struggle for existence in a new epoch as a battle for memories, against hatred, indifference and inhumanity. In a language both furious and sensitive, Jirgl illustrates how individual recollection and literature oppose collective amnesia.