Books: Eavesdropping

THE SAFETY NET

by Heinrich Böll;

Translated by Leila Vennewitz

Knopf; 314 pages; $13.95

Why are old Fritz Tolm and his wife Käthe leaning out of a window of their Rhineland manor and getting wet in the rain? He only wants to tell her that she is "still the best remedy against boredom." It is a novel way to say "I love you," but the house is bugged and Tolm does not want the police to overhear him, even if it is for his own good. As Holzpuke, the officer in charge of household security, explained,...

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