Bookworm: ‘Look who’s back’


For my birthday three years ago I was given a book as a gift. I was given many books that year (it was an important birthday), which meant that by the time I was packing to leave Amsterdam just over a year later, there were still many unread tomes in my collection. Including this one particular book. Sadly it could not make the journey over the sea back to Ireland with me. As books are a dead weight, my collection was gifted to other people, left in my local laundrette, or – and I am ashamed to admit this – discarded. Not this one- I made sure I gave this one a proper home – I wanted to retrieve it and to read it later.

I collected it last December on a visit to Amsterdam. I have just finished it.

It is called ‘Look who’s back’ – it’s a translation by Jamie Bulloch from the original German text by Timur Vermes.

This was a bestseller in Germany in 2012 and was made into a massively successful film a few years later.

In the year 2011, Adolf Hitler wakes up, slightly dazed and confused in a park in Berlin. He’s in full uniform. He is wondering why the city is still standing, as he’d given instruction to destroy it. Asking a group of boys  (who he mistakes for Hitler Youth) playing football where he is, he finds refuge in a newspaper kiosk. Unaware of how long he has been asleep, upon seeing the Turkish language newspapers in the stall, he assumes that Germany has formed a military alliance with Turkey.

The newspaper stall holder mistakes him for a comedian and impersonator, and calls a TV production company.

Before long Hitler is appearing on a TV sketch show, hosted by a Turkish German comedian, who has a show based around ethnic humour.

Hitler of course is only being his true, evil self and engages in racist tirades onscreen. The audience thinks it is satire and lap it up.

He becomes a Youtube sensation, gets his own television show, book deals and approaches from all the major political parties who assume that he is merely a comedian.

Never once does he pretend to be someone he is not – his anti-Semitism, racism, and murderous impulses are never hidden.

It’s a funny book, but it’s creepy. It’s obviously a satire, but the manner in which every character  praises Hitler for his edginess and incisive insight into modern Germany is chilling. He doesn’t moderate his opinions or his hate speech at any point. As he points out himself, as his media career expands, he never had to seize power – he was voted in, by a Volk looking for a strong leader. He never hid his intentions towards the Jews. He swept to power in the 1930s through a vote, on a wave of populism.

I’m glad I waited until this year to read it – this unsettling, yet amusing, book about a brutal dictator, who inexplicably awakes, 65 years after his death, becomes a reality TV star, and plots his political revival.

I’m not saying that Donald Trump can or will be allowed to have free reign to implement his policies in America. But there are some clear parallels.

A country battered by the worst economic crisis in decades. Craving a strong leader who is not afraid to find a scapegoat (Mexicans and Muslims)  for its fears and frustrations, and to vilify that scapegoat. The Great Leader has a solution – a Wall. He is regarded as a joke by the intelligentsia – a tragic bankrupt, a reality TV star with bad hair, but who sweeps to power on a wave of populism, openly declaring his plans.

Germany 1933.

USA 2016.

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