Reviewing one of the boldest works of fiction in the last decade.
From the official blurb:
‘Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.
People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the Führer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.’
This novel has received a staggering amount of 1* reviews from people who haven’t read it. They confess as much themselves, and it’s probably the first time since high school when I encountered people being proud of NOT having read a book. They found the blurb to be offensive enough, and sprang into action.
Well, what can I say? They’ve basically cheated themselves, because the book’s message could not have been more clearly anti-Nazi. It basically says: “Don’t be fooled by a dictator’s sweet smiles – in his dreams, he’s already got the crematoriums going. Don’t ascribe anything he says to ‘risqué jokes’ and ‘provocation attempts’. Real monsters don’t strut around with claws and hooves, they can be charming and seemingly reasonable – and that is why they are so dangerous’.
Does that ring any bells?
Of course, I understand where all this bewilderment is coming from. Over the past decades, we have turned the Nazis into stock comic book villains, usually served with a garnish of occult experiments and evil laugh. An unfortunate result? People are now hesitant to recognize or condemn real Nazis, if they fall somewhat short of the Red Skull.
And, for all its humour, this novel is chillingly frightening precisely because its infamous protagonist seems so human, recognizable, relatable even (at least, when it comes to the comedic fish-out-of-the-water situations). It holds up a mirror to our world, poised to allow any poison past radar if it adopts the veneer of ‘provocation’ and ‘boldness’, and the reflection is not pretty.
All the faults I found in this book are of a purely literary variety. For instance, this reader often found herself stuck in the swamp of the narrator’s endless introspections – though the author has captured the inane, narcissistic style of the real Fuhrer well enough! The climax is also somewhat lacking; the film adaptation managed it better. However, this novel boasts the most chilling Christmassy epilogue you have read in a long time.
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