Bestselling Hitler Satire Divides Critics
It’s the 80th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and a satirical novel about the dictator and the cult of personality following him would seem an unlikely way to remember him. But first novel Er Ist Wieder Da, or He's Back, by Timur Vermes is proving a success on the wave of commemorations currently taking place in Germany.
The novel’s at the top of the charts, beating off more seasoned writers like Ken Follett and Paulo Coehlo to sell over 400,000 copies — it’s already been licensed for 17 international editions.
In Vermes’ story, Hitler falls asleep in 1945, ala Sleeping Beauty, and wakes in Berlin circa 2011 where he becomes a celebrity, “before entering politics where he campaigns against dog muck and speeding”.
'The fact is we have too much of a stereotype of Hitler,' he told German media. 'He's always the monster and we can be comforted by the fact that we're different from him. But in reality he continues to spark real fascination in people, just as he did back then when people liked him enough to help him commit crimes… I want to show that Hitler would have a chance to succeed nowadays just as he did back then, just in another way,' said Vermes.
A ghostwriter by trade, Vermes explained that Germans “appear to be obsessed by him” and the book is deliberately confrontational. The response from critics has been mixed.
'We laugh but it's a laugh that sticks in the throat,' wrote Die Süddeutsche Zeitung. '… Vermes satirises this 'Hitleritis', but his novel draws on it as well and even lends it a new dimension, that of not laughing about Hitler, but with Hitler.'
I wonder if 80 years is long enough to laugh about what one man did to the western world. But I may well read it when it’s published in Britain next year. Does anyone else plan on reading it?
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