Based on an actual incident in Nazi-occupied Belgium, Ramzipoor’s debut is a tragicomic account of fake news for a cause.
Structured like a heist movie, the novel follows several members of a conspiracy in Enghien, Belgium, who have a daring plan. The conspirators do not intend to survive this caper, only to bring some humor—and encouragement for resisters—into the grim existence of Belgians under Nazi rule. To this end, the plotters—among them Marc Aubrion, a journalist and comic; David Spiegelman, an expert forger; Lada Tarcovich, a smuggler and sex worker; and Gamin, a girl masquerading as a male street urchin—intend to...publish a newspaper. And only one issue of a newspaper, to be substituted on one night for the regular evening paper, Le Soir, which has become a mouthpiece for Nazi disinformation. Le Faux Soir, as the changeling paper is appropriately dubbed, will feature satire, doctored photographs making fun of Hitler, and wry requests for a long-overdue Allied invasion. (Target press date: Nov. 11, 1943.) To avoid immediate capture, the Faux Soir staff must act as double agents, convincing (or maybe not) the local Nazi commandant, August Wolff, that they are actually putting out an anti-Allies “propaganda bomb.” The challenge of fleshing out and differentiating so many colorful characters, combined with the sheer logistics of acquiring paper, ink, money, facilities, etc. under the Gestapo’s nose, makes for an excruciatingly slow exposé of how this sausage will be made. The banter here, reminiscent of the better Ocean’s Eleven sequels, keeps the mechanism well oiled, but it is still creaky. A few scenes amply illustrate the brutality of the Occupation, and sexual orientation works its way in: Lada is a lesbian and David, in addition to being a Jew, is gay—August Wolff’s closeted desire may be the only reason David has, so far, escaped the camps. The genuine pathos at the end of this overdetermined rainbow may be worth the wait.
A little-known story that will have special resonance for today’s resisters.