15 October 2015

Look Who's Back

The 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 F├╝hrer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.

Look Who’s Back stunned and then thrilled 1.5 million German readers with its fearless approach to the most taboo of subjects. Naive yet insightful, repellent yet strangely sympathetic, the revived Hitler unquestionably has a spring in his step.

Rating: 2/5 stars

I started reading this book not really sure what to expect. It's a brave choice of topic but I wasn't put off, as some others have been, because I knew it was supposed to be a satire. I thought it sounded quite interesting, but I did wonder what on earth could be funny about Hitler. It was funny, but I felt only in the way it would have been funny to see what kinds of observations anyone who was used to life in the 1940s would make about modern society, technology and lifestyle. One of the funniest parts to read sees a secretary trying to teach Hitler - who everyone thinks is an excellent method actor, definitely not the real thing - how to use email. Apart from that, I didn't find much to laugh about.

Quite often while reading I had the feeling that Vermes just wanted to write about Hitler in the modern world, maybe just wanted to write something a bit shocking, but didn't really have a plot to go with it. Hitler finds himself the subject of a lot of media attention and this was an interesting look at 'celebrity', highlighting how easy it for potentially dangerous individuals to gain an audience in today's society, especially due to the media. Unfortunately, the story didn't really develop past this point and by the end, I was struggling to stay interested.

The author did a good job of capturing Hitler's sense of self-importance, however his inner monologue forms most of the book - this contains quite a lot of racist thought which wasn't the easiest to read. I didn't find it uncomfortable to read as such, as I can appreciate that it was probably exactly what Hitler's opinions of society would be and it's important to remember that the author isn't championing these views. However, I think the same effect could have been achieved with only a few such comments in discussion with other characters, rather than pages and pages of thought process.

Overall, I can see why this book has achieved controversial status and it's definitely an interesting concept, but I wasn't overly impressed. In fact, I'm a little annoyed I spent so much time on it.

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