Germany may be reunified, but the life of former East German dissident Vladimir Meyer has fallen apart. His wife has deserted him. He has been fired from his university for being a Marxist. His son, Karl, is now a moderate, up-and-coming Social Democrat. In the pages of this political meditation, Vladimir tries to discover whether his father was really Ludwik, the famous Communist spy purged at the time of the Hitler-Stalin pact. The question has gained urgency since Vladimir learned that his mother was an informer for the Russians for years and spied even on him. Ali folds his drama around the tight, cultlike atmosphere of Communist Party life, peopled by idealists who find their lives encumbered by betrayals, power grabs and corruption and who, in the postcommunist era, must come to terms with their complicity with Stalinism. Although Ali too often falls prey to simple, romantic what-ifs (What if Republican Spain had won? What if Trotsky had defeated Stalin?), this is a valuable book, especially for those interested in the current thinking of the European left. (Nov.) FYI: Tariq Ali is a political commentator and filmmaker in Great Britain.