I rode a tank
Held a general’s rank
When the Blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank
Please to meet you
Hope you guessed my name
~~ “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones
Written by Timur Vermes, translated from German by Jamie Bulloch
This book was excellent and amazing. Published in Germany in 2015, it tells the story of Adolf Hitler—yes, the real one—waking up in 2011 Berlin. No explanation is given as to why he survived his suicide and burning with Eva Braun, but none is needed. That is not the point of the book.
As the Führer learns that he has awakened 60 years after his last memory, he attempts to navigate the modern world. He is mistaken for a comedian and actor/impersonator, soon attracts the attention of the networks, and gets a segment on a comedy show. He is a hit with many viewers (although some do not find him amusing at all) and seen as a master satirist. He never breaks character to anyone because he is, of course, the actual Hitler. He delivers speeches he gave decades ago and they begin to resonate with a certain segment of the population. He becomes so popular that he is given his own show.
This is one of the best dark humor books I’ve ever read. It manages to take one of the most abhorrent figures in world history and make him somewhat sympathetic. Of course, just as you’re going along and thinking, “Well, it was kind of nice what he said to her,” he then thinks about how it was necessary to eliminate as many Jews as possible and that his efforts were not in vain. I often felt a combination of horror and hilarity. It can’t be an easy thing to evoke such opposing feelings in a reader, but Vermes does it perfectly. (Credit to the translator, as well. It is not easy to translate German and retain the humor.)
There were parts that made me laugh out loud, such as when Hitler wonders at the absence of candles in the hospital due to concerns about fire:
I cannot recall large numbers of buildings having been damaged during my time in government, despite the generous use of candles. But I do concede that, from 1943 onward, the statistics become rather less meaningful given the increasing absence of buildings.
Then there is Hitler’s visit to Oktoberfest, where he strikes up a conversation with a woman. She speculates on his operations, meaning plastic surgery in order to look more like the real Hitler, but he takes it as literal military operations and mentions Sea Lion, Barbarossa, and Cerberus. She says she hasn’t heard of them, thinking that he is talking about plastic surgeons.
She scrutinized me. “I don’t see any scars,” she said with the air of a professional.
“I’m not going to complain,” I said. “The deepest wounds are those that Fate inflicts upon our hearts.”
“You’re right there,” she said with a smile, holding her beer toward me.
This is an absolutely brilliant indictment of celebrity worship, social media, politics, and the cult of personality. How is it possible that a somewhat charismatic, completely narcissistic blowhard with delusions of grandeur could rise to a position of political power while spouting racist, xenophobic, sexist rhetoric?
Heyyyy, wait a minute…!
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