Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Timur Vermes, "Look Who's Back" (2012)

This is likely one of the most clever, amusing, intriguing and generally enjoyable fiction books I have read in a long time.

Essentially, the premise is that Adolf Hitler awakens with a pounding headache in a Berlin vacant lot in 2011. He has no memory of what has transpired since April 1945, with his last memory of that time being the act of showing Eva Braun his antique pistol. The rest of the story is simply too good to spoil. Vermes combines a singular wit, trenchant political commentary, and thought-provoking representation of how Hitler might understand the contemporary political world (both within Germany, as well as beyond).

Some snippets that I found particularly enjoyable (pagination is from my digital version):
37: “…in the last sixty-six years the number of Soviet soldiers on the territory of the German Reich had fallen substantially, particularly in the Greater Berlin area. The current figure was between thirty and fifty men; in a flash I could see that this afforded the Wehrmacht a far better prospect of victory compared to the last estimate from my general staff of around 2.5 million enemy soldiers on the Eastern Front alone.”

41: “We all know, of course, what to make of our newspapers. The deaf man writes down what the blind man has told him, the village idiot edits it, and their colleagues in the other press houses copy it. Each story is doused afresh with the same stagnant infusion of lies, so that the “splendid” brew can then be served up to a clueless Volk. In this instance, however, I was prepared to be somewhat lenient. So rarely does Fate intervene this strikingly in its own workings that even the smartest minds must find it difficult to comprehend, let alone the mediocre intellects serving our so-called opinion sheets. My brain required the stomach of an ox to digest the other information I managed to unearth.”

48: “What irony: yesterday I was repositioning the 12th Army; today it was magazine racks.”

194: “the so-called reunification of Germany into his expansive lap. I have to concede that this supposed “reunification” was one of the few first-rate lies propagated by the republic. For how could they call it a proper reunification when essential components – such as the aforementioned Silesia granted to Poland, as well as Alsace-Lorraine or Austria – were missing?”

378: “That’s pure gold!” Madame Bellini said when, heavy-hearted, I showed her the report on the “National Democrats” alongside others we had filmed.”

540: “the telephone has to be a telephone, a calendar, a camera and everything else besides. This is dangerous nonsense, the only possible consequence of which is that thousands of our young people will be mown down on the roads because they cannot stop staring into their screens. One of my first undertakings will be to outlaw such telephone devices or allow them only for those inferior racial elements remaining in our society – for the latter I may even make them compulsory. Then they will litter the main thoroughfares of Berlin like squashed hedgehogs.”

541: “Christmas decorations have become more tasteful with the passing of the years. A most disagreeable industrialisation has taken hold. I am not concerned about whether something is kitsch or not, for every example of kitsch harbours a residue of the feelings of the simple man, and since that is the case there will always be the possibility of a development towards real art. No, what really bothers me is that the importance of Father Christmas has grown disproportionally, doubtlessly as a result of Anglo-American cultural infiltration.”

547: “He has also devised a new electoral slogan. It will be plastered at the bottom of all the placards, giving them a common thread. The slogan addresses old virtues, old doubts, and for good measure has a humorous, conciliatory element to win over those pirate voters and other young people. The slogan reads: “It wasn’t all bad.”

No comments: