He's back. Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of ground, alive and well. Things have changed - no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognizes his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman. And he's führious. People certainly recognize 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 Führer has another programme with even greater ambition - to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.
The real strength of the book is the daring idea of using Hitler as first-person narrator. Vermes very effectively captures the characteristic style of Hitler's rhetoric - easy to imitate for a sentence or two, but it's quite an achievement to do it for a whole book without becoming repetitive. I didn't detect any obvious wrong notes: Vermes has clearly done his research quite thoroughly. (The third variation on "Seit 5:45 Uhr wird jetzt zurückgeschossen!" was probably one too many, however...)
Hitler always remains in character, taking himself entirely seriously, continuing to believe in his deluded ideas, and never doubting for a second that he has always done the right thing. Vermes has to make sure that the reader is aware of the enormity of the moral split that is going on here: Hitler presents himself as the war veteran, the simple man of the people, the war leader carrying the responsibilities for his people, and the cuddly Onkel Wolf who liked to joke around with his secretaries and eat cream cakes, but we're not allowed to forget what else he presided over. Sometimes this shift works and sometimes it doesn't.
The idea of making Hitler into a comedian is also clever: Vermes is making the (perhaps not entirely original) point that we live in a world where you get more attention as a clown than you do as a politician, and reinforcing it with the paradox that in modern Germany, dressing up as Hitler would give you the freedom to say things that would otherwise be totally unacceptable. It's also interesting how Vermes cleverly manages the humour: Hitler, even though he's a professional comedian, never says anything that's obviously calculated to be funny, but as narrator he is aware that his comments (which are often extremely funny because of the context) make people laugh, and this doesn't bother him. If people are laughing at what he says, it means that they are listening to him. It's noticeable that Vermes doesn't give Hitler a new political programme for the 21st century. He's against a lot of the things he sees around him, but we're never told what he's for, other than restoring Germany's borders to what they were.
Some of the other jokes in the book are a bit more obvious: there's a certain amount of rather predictable Rip-van-Winkle stuff about Hitler discovering the oddities of the modern world, and there are a lot of in-jokes about German newspapers, politicians, and TV shows (some of which I certainly missed). Not everything was at the same high level of comedy as Hitler's wildly inappropriate speeches, but I did laugh a great deal at this book. I didn't feel very comfortable about finding it so funny, though!
It's notable that reviews of this book outside Germany tend to be rather lukewarm. I suspect that it loses a lot of its transgressive effect in translation (in Germany, it's still problematic to talk about Hitler in any context other than a strictly didactic one; English readers probably think about Mel Brooks or the Monty Python Minehead by-election sketch). Moreover, even a very good translation probably wouldn't capture the dangerous and disturbing resonance that the Hitler rhetorical style has in German.
Or would he? In this age of relativism and irony as the preferred communication modus for many, no one is shocked by Hitler's discourse on racial superiority, the role of women as child-bearers or the annihilation of the Jews. It takes no effort to get our contemporaries to bring the Hitler salute or say Sieg Heil - "it's funny coz it's ironic, right?". And slowly this little man with his absolute statements clad in superhuman self-confidence and a twisted form of integrity starts winning over the people around him. And the temperature of the book plummets a few dozen degrees, as it becomes clear that demagogues and peddlers of strong statements who identify clear enemies (I'm looking at you, Vladimir) could still control a 21st-century country with early 20th-century methods.
Likewise, this book purports to be written by
Not humorous at times
This review is from: Look Who's Back (Paperback)
Imagine what would happen if Hitler suddenly woke up in a park in 2012 Berlin (how this happens is never clarified.) At first the humour is based on any time traveller having to get used
the influx of immigrants: "during my stroll I had noticed the occasional passer-by whose Aryan ancestry was questionable, to put it mildly... it was still a mystery what these racial aliens were doing here."
when offered an instant coffee "the British must still be blockading the seas...the brave, stoic German Volk had been forced to make do with substitutes for so long."
The shock of a woman president, poorly-behaved young people who don't measure up to the Hitler Youth, even the computer...
But Hitler is soon discovered and offered a place on a TV show, as an alternative comedian, impersonating the dictator....
While many will find any novel on Hitler tasteless, I have to say I found the premise interesting. At a time when there are divisions in the European community, when unchecked immigration has led to anger and the growth of far-right parties, what actually WOULD happen if Hitler turned up again now? Would some people have time for him?
This is an excellent translation: much of the conversation is in typical 'young person's slang' as Hitler mixes with people in the media, and translator Jamie Bulloch does a convincing job of modern anglicisms: "LOL", that's like so cool" etc.
Interesting read - probably a *3.5
In 2011, Der Führer finds himself magically brought back to life in a field outside Berlin. The Germans he encounters are confused; they think that he's a comedic performance artist who never breaks character.
Look Who's Back is a satire of our media-obsessed society, and at times it is a very funny one. The scenes in which 120-year old Hitler learns how to use a computer mouse and smartphone (his ringtone is "Flight of the Valkyries") are particularly clever. The Hitlerian narrative voice parodies Mein Kampf's turgid prose. The book gets a little tedious in parts, however, and by the end, I was quite ready for it to be over. It's not for everyone, but I do recommend it as an ironic look at modern times.
Still, it left me a bit wanting in the second half and disappointed in the end but there are some gems in there.
I am partial to the odd satire novel, and mostly love anything that is linked to the Second World War, so when I read the description I really thought this would be a novel I would enjoy. Obviously I was aware that the plot was going to be a little on the nuts side
Ok, so the storyline has Adolf Hitler waking up some 50+ years after he committed suicide at the end of the war (he just appears, no explanation is given). People who meet him assume he is an actor who continually stays in character and his reputation slowly builds. The country warms to this crazy old guy and soon his influence starts to build as more and more people are captivated by his ‘act’, whilst he is sincere his words are perceived as being full of irony and the audience love it.
One of the reviews on the cover states ‘This uproariously funny satire will have you in stitches’, what greater accolade could it be given? Unfortunately it was the exact opposite for me. I can’t remember even having a slight smirk let alone a laugh out loud moment. Maybe the humour was lost in translation? I certainly felt as if I was on the outside of a number of the ‘jokes’ as the book was originally released in Germany and as such had more than a few references to the modern German media.
I suppose the author really did take a risk in writing ‘Look Who’s Back’, emotions still run high when the Third Reich is mentioned and I bet he faced a lot of criticism. Certainly he has lost some stars on Amazon by reviewers because of this, but I feel that readers should know exactly what to expect when you pick the book up. For me it has received a poor review simply because it wasn’t funny, in fact I would even go so far as to say it bored me.
Not something I can recommend, there are much better books out there to be wasting your time with this. A 5 star idea written as a 1 star novel, so 2 stars overall.
I have read this book with mixed feelings.
It is bizarre, maybe. But there were moments that this book made me laugh loud.
The book managed to shine a light on the more ridiculous aspects of modern life and in particular the media and the deification of celebrity.
Despite the strange
Excellent satire and very thought provoking.
But most disturbing is the likeability of Hitler in this novel, coming over as a rather charming and ultimately benevolent elderly
Vermes makes the most out of these scenes, but he is most incisive when he uses his character to satirize modern-day society, politics and media. On the whole, an entertaining and occasionally thought-provoking read. What is pleasantly surprising is that although the humour is probably quite culture and language-specific, the English translation is zesty, flowing and idiomatic. Kudos to Jamie Bulloch for this.
The premise is that Adolf Hitler, who died in 1945, wakes up in 2011 in a field in Berlin covered in petrol. He assumes that if he is alive then Destiny obviously has plans for him. He never
The book details his (second) rise to fame. Originally written by a German and a taboo subject, it has been a huge success in Germany which has seen it rise to the top of the best seller lists.
And this is no surprise for it is a masterpiece of preceptive comedy. I laughed out loud a lot while reading this book, sometimes from the comedy but other times from the sheer irony of what is happening.
This book surprised me by just how good it is, it works on all levels, superficially it is a bit of a laugh, deeper than that it holds a mirror up to our world and views that world through the eyes of one of the most evil men ever to have lived and yet you’d have to admit that we don’t always come out looking good. This is no apologists platform for the rehabilitation of that man. Having read it I can see immediately why it was so popular in Germany. This after all is their history.
I read this right after reading The Hitler-Hess Deception so amazingly I knew who, and which events, he was referring to in this book.
This is one you really have to read before they make a movie and completely stuff it up.