The church on Siegfeldstrasse was open to anyone who embarrassed the Republic, and Andreas Wolf was so much of an embarrassment that he actually resided there, in the basement of the rectory, but unlike the others — the true Christian believers, the friends of the Earth, the misfits who defended human rights or didn't want to fight in World War III — he was no less an embarrassment to himself.

For Andreas, the most achievedly totalitarian thing about the Republic was its ridiculousness. It was true that people who tried to cross the death strip were unridiculously shot, but to him this was more like an oddity of geometry, a discontinuity between Eastern flatness and Western three-dimensionality that you had to assume to make the math work. As long as you avoided the border, the worst that could happen was that you'd be spied on and picked up and interrogated, do prison time and have your life wrecked. However inconvenient this might be for the individual, it was leavened by the silliness of the larger apparatus — the risible language of "class enemy" and "counter-revolutionary elements," the absurd devotion to evidentiary protocol. The authorities would never just dictate your confession or denunciation and force or forge your signature. There had to be photos and recordings, scrupulously referenced dossiers, invocations of democratically enacted laws. The Republic was heartbreakingly German in its striving to be logically consistent and do things right. It was like the most earnest of little boys, trying to impress and outdo its Soviet father. It was even loath to falsify election returns. And mostly out of fear, but maybe also out of pity for that little boy, who believed in socialism the way children in the West believed in a flying Christkind who lit the candles on the Christmas tree and left presents underneath it, the people all went to the polls and voted for the Party. Even the dissidents spoke the language of reform, not overthrow. Everyday life was merely constrained, not tragically terrible. (Olympic bronze was the Berliner Zeitung's idea of calamity.) And so Andreas, whose embarrassment it was to be the megalomaniacal antithesis of a dictatorship too ridiculous to be worthy of megalomania, kept his distance from the other misfits hiding behind the church's skirts. They disappointed him aesthetically, they offended his sense of specialness, and they wouldn't have trusted him anyway. He performed his Siegfeldstrasse ironies privately.