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It Can't Happen Here (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 20 Jan 2017
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You can't read Lewis' novel today without flashes of Trumpian recognition (Slate)
An eerily prescient foreshadowing of current affairs (Guardian)
Eighty years later the novel feels frighteningly contemporary (Salon)
Not only Lewis's most important book but one of the most important books ever produced in the United States (New Yorker)
About the Author
Sinclair Lewis was born in 1885 in Minnesota. He attended Yale University and subsequently worked as a reporter and editor. In 1920, he had a major breakthrough with Main Street (1920), which was followed by Babbitt (1922) and many other successful novels. He won the Nobel Prize in 1930 and in 1935 wrote the bestselling It Can't Happen Here, a cautionary tale about the rise of a fascist president in America. He died in Rome in 1951.
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Even more impressive is that this was written in 1935/1936, and the author - unlike many other Americans at that time - had no doubt about the nature and intentions of the Hitler and Mussolini regimes, from which Windrip & co. borrow.
It then becomes something grimmer and more horrific, at which it is more of a premonition of WW2 and totalitarian regimes generally and the Trump comparisons are not really apposite.
Generally well-written and exciting, although I sensed that by the end Lewis was getting a bit bored of it and wound things up fairly quickly.
Definitely worth a read, and I was very surprised that this is not a better known or more widely read novel. It predates "1984" by some 12 years, and I wonder if Orwell ever read it.
It is peppered with references to many non-fictional people, many of whom were living at the time of writing; would Lewis have got away with that today, without a libel charge? The Kindle's ability to look up Wikipedia came into its own! An introduction to mid-1930s America, which would have put the book in its context, would have been helpful.
Could it happen here? It certainly portrays a horrific turn of events taken very tamely by the population, yet focusing on fairly "average" people who respond with incredible bravery, while others become instruments of terror.
There are some great quotes that resonate today, (eg "That's why he's such a real Fascist menace - he's so confoundedly humanitarian, in fact so Noble, that the majority of people are willing to let him boss everything" and "the way to stop crime is to stop it"), but I did feel that greater exploration of what drives ordinary decent people to be complicit of such a regime would have been helpful.
To conclude such a book in a realistic way without leaving the reader totally depressed, cannot have been easy, yet Sinclair Lewis achieved this.
However it is a very well written book and a very pacey read.
It is also quite frightening. The fictional president in this book is far more plausible than the current incumbent. Each step to totalitarianism seems quite reasonable in isolation until a chilling picture of fascism emerges. The current buffoon in the Whitehouse has come along way already, lets hope he doesn't turn to this book for tips.
Apparently it was supposed to be fiction, written in 1935 about the USA but using Hitler's rise to power as a template.......now, in the 21st century it is beginning to look like fortune telling.
This is a cautionary tale of the electorate getting what it thought it wished for. Written in 1935 amid mounting concern about the intentions of Nazi Germany, it has direct relevance to all democratic regimes at all times, but with a particularly urgent message in current times.
The 1930s writing style and the (at times) pompous-sounding names (Berzelius, Doremus, etc) grate slightly to contemporary ears, but other than that it's a good read.