Look Who's Back

by Timur Vermes

Other authorsJamie Bulloch (Translator.)
Book, 2014



Call number




London : MacLehose Press, Quercus, 2014


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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member thorold
The premise of the novel is that Adolf Hitler unaccountably finds himself alive and well and in the Berlin of 2011. His uniform smells of petrol, he has a headache, and the last thing he can remember is sitting on a couch in the bunker with Eva. Obviously there must be a reason why he's there: it
Show More
doesn't take him long to work out that the German nation is in a mess and needs a strong and capable leader to bring it back onto the right path. And he soon finds the way to get his message out to the German people when he gets a place on TV as a Hitler-impersonator (what else?) on a satirical comedy show.

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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member fist
The author bases this brilliant satire on one crazy premise: Hitler wakes up in Berlin after almost 70 years of slumber, and takes note of "his" Germany in the 21st century. His observations on modern day customs (mobile phones, "crazy women" who collect dog poo in the parks) are quite funny, as is
Show More
his outdated swollen language straight from the 1930s to describe everyday things. Hitler is totally lost in modern-day Berlin, and - satisfyingly, for the reader - comes across as a ridiculous little man, who would never be able to raise the German masses like he once did.
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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Philogos
Hitler wakes up in Berlin in 2011, alive and well and gives us his views on life in modern Germany. Since everyone assumes he's a comedian, he becomes a celebrity comedian with his own television program. The only problem is that he's in deadly earnest.

Likewise, this book purports to be written by
Show More
Hitler and appears to be humorous. It shows up the absurdity of life in modern Germany. Let's hope it's not in deadly earnest.
Show Less
LibraryThing member BrianHostad
Excellent black comedy well worth reading and thought provoking.
LibraryThing member Quickpint
Diverting. Preobably loses something in translation, and perhaps parochially, rather than "merclessly" satirical.
LibraryThing member sogamonk
Off beat ,irreverent satire. Loses a lot in translation
Not humorous at times
LibraryThing member starbox
"It was my task and mine alone to save the Volk", 19 Feb. 2016

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
Show More
to a whole different society:
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
Show Less
LibraryThing member akblanchard
Maybe he's not tanned, but Adolf Hitler is rested and ready to take over Germany again.

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.
Show More
The resurrected Hitler quickly becomes a pop-culture sensation, with his own TV show, website, and YouTube channel. His uses these media platforms to vent against foreigners, women and democracy (he reserves special contempt for Angela Merkel, whom he calls a "chunky woman with all the confidence and charisma of a weeping willow", p. 107), as well as, of course, "the Jews". After a while, despite the weight of history, many viewers find that Hitler 2.0's opinions don't seem so unreasonable after all.

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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member polarbear123
Helps if you know a bit about both modern day Germany and the era of the Weimar Republic and third reich. If you think this is a book about amusing things hitter says then you haven't got the point. The real cleverness of the book lies in revealing the absurdity, blandness and susceptibility of our
Show More
own present day society. Thought provoking and enjoyable.
Show Less
LibraryThing member TheCrow2
Adolf Hitler came to his senses in the 2011 Berlin. The world has changed but he hasn't. After he found his way to the showbusiness the only queastion remains if he beats the media ot the other way.
LibraryThing member PennyAnne
This book takes as its starting point the reappearance of (the real) Hitler in 2011 Berlin and what ensues from there as he tries to discover what has happened to the world in his absence. The cover of my copy describes this novel as "a merciless satire" and I think this is quite accurate. Hitler
Show More
finds his way onto TV and at once becomes immensely popular - people of course think he is an impersonator but they start to rally to what he is saying (which is exactly the same as what he said in the 1930's). And that is what is frightening - as Hitler points out he was elected to government by the Volk the first time - they were not overwhelmingly coerced into voting for him - could it happen a again? #TimurVermes
Show Less
LibraryThing member kakadoo202
just not my type of humor only funny part was the comparions of Angels Merkel to a Trauerweide.
LibraryThing member ossi
You need to have a little understanding of modern German society to really appreciate this book.
Still, it left me a bit wanting in the second half and disappointed in the end but there are some gems in there.
LibraryThing member Bridgey
Look Who's Back - Timur Vermes **

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
Show More
but the reviews were all positive so I decided to give it a try.

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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Haidji
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
Show More
subject matter, Timur manages to make Hitler seem almost likeable.
Excellent satire and very thought provoking.
Show Less
LibraryThing member stevierbrown
Certainly humorous in parts but somehow the joke wears thin very quickly, and what is the fundamental and very obvious point of this satire feels rushed at the end.
But most disturbing is the likeability of Hitler in this novel, coming over as a rather charming and ultimately benevolent elderly
Show More
uncle who just happens to have some rather embarrassing slightly racist tendencies. Some may say that is the point but I’m not sure that even in these more modern and compassionate times of understanding and equality we should attempt to cast Hitler in a warm light, even in a “merciless satire”.
Show Less
LibraryThing member mumoftheanimals
Well-written and funny in many places. The low mark is I don't really think anyone should be writing about Hitler as a Charlie Chaplin Buffon, never mind a german. It even makes jokes about 5m Jews exterminated. Oh! How I laughed when I read the Holocaust helped with the world's overpopulation. A
Show More
friend said, but there is a lot of unhappiness in the world. Yes, of course. and I don't want a sit-com about Isis or famine or Tsumamis either.
Show Less
LibraryThing member DaffiMere
An interesting idea and well plotted out. But the pace of the story is slow.
LibraryThing member Big_Bang_Gorilla
This novel posits the resurrection of Reichsfuhrer Adolf Hitler, who, after a brief period of adaptation to his reduced circumstances, catches a wave of internet and TV popularity as a hilarious Hitler imitator in today's Germany. When this book is funny, it is extremely funny; the first third of
Show More
the book, a variant of the Rip Van Winkle theme of a long-absent old man attempting to decipher the modern world, is a laff-riot, poking fun at such modern day oddities as e-mail addresses and the computer mouse. Unfortunately, after that, the book increasingly becomes a vehicle for the author's conjectures about what Hitler would think about contemporary politics and diplomacy. In other words, it's a lot like reading Mein Kampf, since the author is a talented mimic of Hitler's bombast, and this imagined Mein Kampf is pretty much like reading the tiresome original. Since many people get extremely angry with comical Hitlers and won't like even the first part of the book, this theme will probably be even less acceptable; I certainly found it all somewhere between puzzling and dismaying. And, really, the funny parts wouldn't be nearly as funny with any other world leader of the period as the protagonist; an American novelist tried approximately the same schtick with Wm. Howard Taft a few years ago, with decidedly mixed results.
Show Less
LibraryThing member eglinton
Joke wears thin. A warp in time delivers Adolf Hitler, having somehow survived the bunker and slept through 70 years, into 21st century Berlin. Hitler’s quirks and manic drive are well attested, and the oddities and hollowness of our own times, distorted by exhibitionism and reality TV, are also
Show More
not news. The initial concept is arresting and is done with some flair, but the humorous situations and the other characters never really surprise. Amiably readable, but I chose not to stay to the end.
Show Less
LibraryThing member JosephCamilleri
Is it morally acceptable to feature Hitler as the rather likeable protagonist of a comic novel? Is it in good taste to turn a mass murderer into a figure of fun? These questions naturally come to mind when faced with Timur Vermes's first novel. The premise is simple - Hitler inexplicably wakes up
Show More
in modern day Berlin and, mistaken for an uncannily brilliant method actor, lands a programme on national tv. Much of the resulting humour is, predictably, based on the reverse anachronisms raised by the Rip-van-Winkle situation. Hitler is astounded by the technological advances such as the "mouse device", the "internetwork" and the "Vikipedia", which he believes is named after the "intrepid explorer Teutons of old". He is flummoxed by the sight of "madwomen" walking their dogs and cleaning up after them,cannot understand why his goth scretary does not wear wholesome, colourful clothing and is impressed that Herr Starbuck has apparently taken over all the coffee houses in Berlin.

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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member alexrichman
Hilarious and/or horrifying. Given recent events, readers looking for escapism might want to avoid this book, which sees a nation fall in love with a TV personality who also happens to be a far-Right fanatic. Imagine Network, but with Hitler instead of Peter Finch. Every goose step of the novel is
Show More
planned so meticulously, and the plot unfurls so plausibly, that you're completely wrapped up in the fantasy/nightmare - and Vermes even manages to make our Fuhrer sympathetic.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Lukerik
This is so funny. It make me repeatedly flap about on the sofa with no more than minimal control over my own body while my cat looked on in astonishment. I could endlessly quote it to you, but this review would end up being 375 pages long and I’d get done for copyright infringement.

The initial
Show More
focus of the satire is Adolf Hitler. To briefly summarise, the novel is narrated by Hitler, who magically wakes up in 2011. Everyone takes him to be a method acting impersonator and takes the terrible things he says as jokes. Before long, he has a foothold in the media. As the reader, we can see what’s going on inside his head. We can see a man ignorant and confused who struggles with normal human interaction. He’s not a supernatural demon, but a man who has done terrible things. This is the dark side of the satire, the true target, that I found not so much funny as frightening. The true target is us. I suppose we all have ignorances and confusions about things. I certainly do. Granted, I’ve not killed six million Jews, but the book suggests the disturbing idea that my mistakes and Hitler’s grave crimes flow from the same causes and that Hitler’s behaviour does not require any supernatural force of evil to account for it.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Ken-Me-Old-Mate
Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes I heard about this book through The Guardian’s newsletter about books.
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
Show More
denies who he is but everyone assumes he is an Adolf Hitler impersonator, in fact, the best ever.
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.
Show Less

Original language


Original publication date



1623653339 / 9781623653330
Page: 0.2192 seconds