The Losing Role
Anderson’s latest novel stars “aging footslogger” Max Kaspar, a luckless German actor who’s dragooned by the SS to impersonate an American officer in an elaborate scheme Anderson adapted from an actual historical ploy by Hitler to infiltrate English-speaking operatives into the Allied ranks behind enemy lines on the eve of 1944’s Ardennes Offensive. In the midst of his arduous new role, Kaspar finds himself overwhelmingly tempted to, as it were, bury himself in the part and thereby escape the nightmare of a rapidly-crumbling Nazi Germany. Anderson presents that crumbling Germany with the same spirit and energy as he does pre-war 1930s New York, and throughout the book he resists the temptation to load his narrative with historical exposition.
The book’s pacing and dialogue are sharply turned, which considerably compensates for the story’s rather weak love plot line – and for the fact that Max himself can sometimes be a bit of a feckless focal point character. “You’re a different person now,” Max is told at one point as the book’s action climaxes, “We all are.” Anderson skillfully portrays that kind of transformation in all of his characters.