Fiction Pick of the Week: "The Republic of Bad Taste"

Secrets, dangers, and murder in a German police state.

"Andreas didn’t know what to say. What he wanted was for her to come and live in the basement of the rectory with him. He could protect her, home-school her, practice English with her, train her as a counsellor for at-risk youth, and be her friend, the way King Lear imagined being friends with Cordelia, following the news of the court from a distance, laughing at who was in, who was out. Maybe in time they’d be a couple, the couple in the basement, leading their own private life."

The Unknown Soldier

An actor, fresh from prison, attempts to reconnect with his son in 1950s California.

"And he had believed it. Everyone had. Since the day he’d been cast as Lev, Alexi had been aware that he was getting away with something—though, he reasoned, he’d never explicitly lied about anything. He just never told the complete truth. He may have, when asked about his American accent, mentioned the pronunciation workbooks stacked on his family’s kitchen table, as if he, and not just his parents, had pored over them nightly. He may have once, a little drunk at a party, pretended to forget the English words for the pigs in a blanket being passed around. He may have, that night and possibly a few others, begun sentences with, In my country . . . He may have, when asked by the film’s very openly communist director one night over steaks at Musso’s what he thought about Truman, parroted back what he’d overheard at the writers’ table, that he was narrow-minded and ruthless, his doctrine a farce and an affront to civil liberties. He may have, at Stella and Jack’s invitation, attended a number of meetings in their Hancock Park living room, where there may have been some pretty detailed discussions about following their Soviet comrades down whatever path they took. He may have, on one of those evenings, filled out one of the Party membership forms being passed around, simply because everyone else was."