Book Review: ‘Look Who’s Back’ by Timur Vermes

Looks Who's Back

Timur Vermes

Title: Look Who’s Back (Er ist Weider Da)

Author: Timur Vermes translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch

Publisher: MacLehose Press (whoever was in charge of the marketing and added the wonderful statement ‘and he’s Führious’ deserves an Oscar.)

Publication date: 3rd April 2014

Hardback: 352 pages

Why did I choose to read this book? I’m a history nerd and studied dictatorships at university so a front cover and synopsis as enticing as this one wasn’t going to go unread for very long.

Where to read this book? I have recently moved flats in London and live around the corner from Battersea Park, so as the book begins in the open air I took advantage of the unprecedented good weather and took a pew in the park, find your local park today.

Refreshments: Meat is off the cards in fact food wasn’t really a focus for more, instead I followed Hitler’s lead (the one and only time I will ever be saying that sentence!) and supped slowly on a couple of delicious Peach Bellinis.

Review:

One summer’s day in 2011 Adolf Hitler wakes up dazed and confused amongst the morning dew in a park in Berlin. His initial reaction is surprise at the sunlight – shouldn’t he be safe in his bunker? And also lack of overhead drones and the sounds of machine gun fire. Things have certainly changed – no Eva Braun, no Bormann, no Nazi party and certainly no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman. However, people certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable and the inevitable happens as the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and history begins to repeat itself as people prick up their ears and begin to listen.

Translated from the original German, Look who’s back, has already notched up an impressive stack of publicity not to mention 1.5million German readers thanks to its controversial and satirical stance on society and the taboo dictator. Add to this a refreshing attempt to tackle this historical maelstrom, a fantastically designed front cover and the marketing genius that states ‘he’s back and he’s FÜHRIOUS’’, and you’re guaranteed to catch people’s attention.

I am going to assume that Jamie Bulloch has done a brilliant job at translating this novel, as I can’t read the original German version, capturing a unfathomably whimsical version of Hitler who has to navigate his way through modern technology from the internet to a mobile phone, with a ringtone of nothing less that of Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries.’ These details entertain the reader especially his penchant for a peach Bellini, however, they also serve to highlight how terrifying such leaders can and will be with social and mass media at their fingertips. Back in the 1930’s and 40’s the references and images we have are disturbing enough, factor in the world today where everyone is constantly connected and you have a much more unsettling picture.

Hitler’s mental dialogue is peppered with frequent references to the members of the Nazi party that he held dear and in contempt he misses the friendships of both Bormann and Goebbels but decries those such as Röhm. Furthermore, it’s interesting and entertaining to discover how Vermes has decided upon Hitler’s reactions to learning about how the War played out since he woke up in the park.

The slight issue I had whilst reading is that the story is quite slow-moving and does become slightly repetitive in its message. We know Hitler’s methods and the depiction that society is always predisposed to fear and a strong leader is one which we need to be reminded of – especially with the upcoming European elections and the propaganda posters UKIP are ramming down our throats – however, it could have curtailed a few chapters whilst maintaining this same strong message.

This was a refreshing and sardonic twist on a well tread story and has brought the talents of Timur Vermes to my attention – a talent I will be following with keen interest.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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