INTRODUCTION: I have wanted to read this book since 2012 when it came out. It appealed to me due to the fact that I also thought, that if Hitler like thinking was to ever make a true return, it wouldn’t come back under obvious and not so subtle attempts at re-branding the NSDAP as the Alt-Right or Institute for Historical Review have attempted and failed to do. I’ve also stated in the past that nationalism was a byproduct of the welfare state. Nearly all societies that have government run anything is going to become closed off and nationalistic society, given that human beings are primitive and see money as resources and as such, they’re evolutionary prone to “team playing” in these regards. In essence, the left’s screams at the right of “Racist” are not off in the fact that those looking to close the boarders are attempting to keep American resources for Americans. Where the argument 180’s today, is that Alt-right figures also want to reduce such resources, not just for emigrants, but also for Americans of different “races”. It important to keep this in mind, as America isn’t the only ones going through ye olde 1930’s pangs and Germany has been for years and at least extremely violently since 1989. So a book like this is a must in today’s day and age. Satire has always been a foremost way to ridicule bad ideas and Nazism is no exception to the rule. That said, does this book ultimately do that?
PLOT: Hitler awakens in 2011 and finds himself in a fish out of water story as he struggles to make sense of it all.
PROSE: Not bad. It isn’t purple, but it shows more than enough. Everything is through Hitler’s point of view, so I feel like it was a missed opportunity to possibly play with Hitler’s skewed perspective. I’m not saying he had to see the world like Gobles’ propaganda, but if you have ever seen Hitler’s art, you notice something isn’t quite right about his perception of the world and that could have been an interesting aspect to play with, like how Tim Burton has a unique visual voice.
CHARACTERS: Timur Vermes Hitler is spot on. The only exceptions are Hitler’s speeches, which seem off in tone and not nearly as exaggerative as they could be, nor do they reflect the content of Hitler’s actual speeches. You do not need to read too many of them to know these are not Hitler’s typical oratory approach. They primarily focus on the Middle East, specifically, Turkey. I keep up on German affairs as I am still working on my German, and Muslim immigrants are a huge talking point for right wingers over there, so this is Timur Vermes having Hitler speak in a modern way, which kind of contradicts his fish out of water story at the beginning. There are quite a few of these, how do I put this, non-Hiterlian idiosyncrasies that elude to him either being a severely delusion human or the best huckster show business has ever seen. One instance has Hitler showing humanity towards someone whom he is working with and finds out she is Jewish. While Hitler did have half-Jews working for him, this still seems out of character for the Jew hating sociopath that everyone has seared into their brains. There could be a multitude of reasons for this; one could argue that this is a typical trope of literature where you give the antagonist a positive trait to offset their negative intentions. Dr.No for instance loves his cat. Hitler was great with Kids and Animals, so if that was his goal, it was a redundancy, given what we actually knew about Hitler and could have used. There is another such scene when the same woman is pregnant and Hitler thinks she and her baby daddy want to name the baby after him. Weird he would be so cool with a Jewish woman naming a child after him or the union between a German with a Germanic Jew.
I don’t suspect that Timur is secretly harboring Nazi feelings or is in anyway trying to aggrandize the Nazi leader, because while Hitler was alleged to have a good sense of humor, he most likely would have called this book, itself, propaganda, since he is portrayed as kind of inept and more of a parody of Archie Bunker than the leader of the Third Reich.
The real reason I think those speeches are not as Hitler like as they could have been is that Timur was afraid this could incidentally act as a Turner diaries and so he didn’t go all in on the speeches, least he be accidentally responsible for making neo-nazis off a satire. While I can understand such a concern, when it comes to satire, my belief, you have to go all in as his Hitler does or not bother at all.
Outside of that gripe, the other characters are not as developed as they could have been, which kind of makes sense for this novel, since he seems to be attempting to put you into the perspective of someone in Hitler’s inner circle at the time or a fan of Hitler and attempt to get you to see why people liked him in the first place, allowing you to feel that stature historians and those who knew him have claimed Hitler exuded in your presence.
SUBTEXT: I do not think it is really subtle, but ultimately Hitler is more of an analogy of Germany in this book than actually there in person. He is a spectre looming over Germany and showcases Germany’s struggle with dealing about the holocaust. This is shown in the movie as well, which is why I said it isn’t really subtle. It is kind of shoved down our throats and literally said pretty much the same way I put it. Timur also wrote the screenplay, so I would presume that is the actual intent. Always appreciated when the “subtext” is shoved in our face so we cannot have our own interpretations. Multiple interpretations, like with Dracula or Frankenstein is normally one of the ways these books have longevity, so I feel that hurts it from potentially becoming a classic, even though it could be. The accidental Rocky Horror Picture show reference as Hitler’s new slogan is pretty epic and rings of an abuse boyfriend, coming back around to the honeymoon phase to repeat the cycle, so there is at least something we could come up with ourselves or discern from the book.
CONCLUSION: While the subtext is thrown in our face and the book has a few flaws, ultimately, the book is excellent. I read it in about 16 hours and I only downloaded it last night. While I wanted to read it in the German, I couldn’t pass up the deal on Amazon, so I Kindle bought it. I am very glad I did as it still have a lot to offer and is very poignant.
To be fair, never mind the criticisms above, I feel like there is a stronger version of this novel that never came to light. Had I been writing it, I would have set it in 1986, when the fall of the Berlin wall was about to happen in 1989 and racial tensions in Germany were probably even higher than they are today, along with the impeding fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Hess would of even been alive to have given the rouse more of a “is he, isn’t he?” kind of vibe and the idea of potentially driving Germany back into that type of state might of made the book have a bit more gravitas as a social commentary than a kind of buffoonish Conan O’Brian skit. Still, it works and it deserves
4 out of 5 stars.