108 of 119 people found the following review helpful
Will court controversy, but this satire also addresses issues of the media and our modern world with great wit,
This review is from: Look Who's Back (Kindle Edition)
I can guess what you're thinking: "That cover.... is that .... ?" And then, "But it says it's funny....?!"
I can see from some other reviews and comments around that this is appalling to some, that the concept of a comedic book about one of the most evil men who ever lived is abhorrent. I can understand that. But I also think that comedy, and satire in particular has a great deal of value in making us think about situations and people in ways we might not have before.
I imagine a few people (like me) will consider themselves irreverent and try this because of the 'shock' value. I know I saw the fantastically simple but instantly recognisable cover and was sold. Thing is, this isn't written for its shock value. At least, I don't think that's it's major point. It's not disrespectful. It's certainly not cheap laughs and stereotypes. This is a well-thought-out, witty and very relevant satire on modern life, on the media, on our own sense of humour. At times it's frightening how like sheep people can be, were then, still are.
We have to take one giant leap for it to work - Adolf Hitler from 1945 suddenly wakes up in modern-day Germany. We never find out how, even he doesn't spend too long questioning. To immerse yourself in what happens after, you just have to accept it. Initially disorientated, he doesn't let his unfamiliar surroundings faze him for long. A kind-hearted newspaper seller takes him under his wing and is the first of many to see the Führer as a fully-in-character comedy impersonator. Soon TV producers come calling and a slot on a comedy show beckons. What was once a hypnotic despot is now a hypnotic comedy performer. Is this the point? That we can only laugh at the ravings of a madman now, now that our society would not take him seriously?
However much the Führer rants, raves and talks politics, his new contemporaries applaud his brave comedic insights into the current world climate and his 'witty' outlook of Germany's past. It's something you think you might find appalling. After all, this is Adolf Hitler. But even the 'Jewish question' is well handled. I was worried about that. Of course racist sentiments are spouted by our protagonist, and we never ever feel sympathy for him, but with the first-person perspective and everyone constantly reminding him that as a comedy topic "the Jews are no laughing matter" and Hitler agreeing that they are "absolutely right", the author gets away without making his lead overly repellent (as a fictional Führer), you do keep wanting to see what will happen.
The modern world finding Hitler a comedy genius is itself pretty funny, as we are meant to find it: in some ways it is frightening - can we not see Evil in front of our faces? It does say a lot about the world today that we would very likely find this kind of thing 'post-modern', ironic, and think ourselves very witty for declaring it so. How clever are we that can laugh at his comedic genius? In many ways this makes us no different to the many who followed blindly back in the 20s and 30s. Which of course makes it all the funnier in the book. Hitler's speeches are hilarious at times - his old, trademark style of speechmaking, his old speeches and phrases themselves used but to a vastly different audience. But maybe not such a different one in many respects. Gullible in a different way? I did think reading this: if a man appeared claiming to be Hitler, looked like him, dressed like him, orated like him - he would either end up in a mental hospital or on YouTube. I had a chill in one scene when Hitler gives a speech (though I'm not certain, I believe it's a direct copy of a real one he gave) in which he spouts about blood and sacrifice - truly horrific - but his TV crew interpret it as an elegy for a recently deceased colleague. While it's funny, it's also an indictment of our sensibilities. You want him locked away, yet you want to see what other honours this society will laud him with.
My favourite sections of the book were those that introduced the Führer to modern technology, the more traditional 'comedy' segments. His views on TV shopping channels and cookery shows had me in stitches, for example: "My jaw dropped. Providence had presented the German Volk with the wonderful, magnificent opportunity for propaganda, and it was being squandered on the production of leek rings." He discovers 'Vikipedia', discusses with us his views on the 20th-century history that he missed, and smugly compares his own YouTube viewing figures to that of Chaplin's 'The Great Dictator'. Again though, we are not allowed to forget who this is - every technological advance he sees only as a potential tool for creating a new Reich. Humour with real bite.
How people react to him is fascinating - most find the 'Heil Hitler' amusing, his refusal to get out of character admirable, his improvisation astounding. And all that is funny. Yet the author also touches on the tragic - the elderly Jewish woman who cannot CANNOT find this national sensation funny, remembering the atrocities he (or the person he is impersonating) committed, the Nazi-haters who don't see satire but die-hard National Socialism. The National Socialists for whom he is TOO extreme. It is the masses, as usual who are 'led' en masse to one opinion of him.
I loved this. The translation from the German is excellent, and the only reason I haven't given this 5 stars is because there are references to modern-day Germany that I didn't follow (references to contemporary political figures and situations), and I also found a few of the Führer's speeches and thoughts bordered on overlong. Only a few though. Most of this is perfectly-paced and wittily-written.
You'll never read another book like it. I'm Jewish myself and found it original, hilarious and far from shallow. Very scary too. It treads the path of satire carefully. With fewer and fewer people around who can remind us in person of what Adolf Hitler did to so many, it is vitally important that this is a topic that never dies. Satire is one way of keeping his revolting ideology in the public consciousness - we must never be deluded into adulation of such a creature. A new generation can enjoy and ponder on this book, and not let the past die.
Review of a Netgalley advance copy.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 May 2014, 00:48:33 BST
Samantha C. says:
What a wonderful review! Thank you for revealing everything I was curious about with regards to whether or not to read this book. I was immediately drawn to the cover, like you, but somewhat anxious about the treatment of the subject matter. It is rare to come across such a comprehensive, erudite and beautifully written review...and I am most thankful for it! I'm looking forward to a good read.....
In reply to an earlier post on 18 May 2014, 06:39:12 BST
Thank you so much, Samantha!
It was because of the subject matter that I wanted to justify my positive rating of this book.
I wouldn't normally write quite so much.
Really hope you enjoy it now. X
Posted on 9 Nov 2014, 18:44:22 GMT
Mrs. J. E. Martindale says:
Great review, thank you. I spotted the book on my way through Frankfurt airport last weekend and was intrigued, but didn't read it until your review had convinced me it was worth a punt. I agree with you that it's a very clever idea and shows just how the media can be responsible for bringing very undesirable elements into the limelight. Food for thought indeed.
In reply to an earlier post on 9 Nov 2014, 19:05:06 GMT
Glad you gave it a try. Even if you didn't find it funny/clever it really DOES have some good points to make about contemporary society.
Definitely still one of my best reads this year (and I've read nearly 200).
Posted on 28 Dec 2015, 16:12:36 GMT
Lorna Mac says:
Excellent review - and prompted me to purchase this book, which I had been dithering over. I was a little apprehensive that somehow Hitler would be humanised but actually this book serves as a warning that our society's obsession with the superficial can cloud our collective vision of the depth of harm and depravity he precipitated. Chilling, amusing and though provoking - I'm glad to have read this book. Thank you.
In reply to an earlier post on 28 Dec 2015, 16:25:01 GMT
Thank you Lorna, this was a difficult book to review but I couldn't
help feeling it deserved 5 stars. Such a thought-provoking idea.
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