Title: Look Who’s Back (original: Er Ist Wieder Da)
Author: Timur Vermes
Rating: 2/5 stars
Trigger warnings: WWII, nazi’s and anything related to them
Spoiler warnings: this is a spoilerfree review
Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.
People certainly recognise 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.
LOOK WHO’S BACK stunned and then thrilled 1.5 million German readers with its fearless approach to the most taboo of subjects. Naive yet insightful, repellent yet strangely sympathetic, the revived Hitler unquestionably has a spring in his step.
Ah, yes. One of the most controversial books I’ve read this year, and for good reason.
I bought this book mostly out of curiosity, because I’d heard about it on the internet. I’d heard of some of the controversy surrounding it, though it was promoted everywhere as a comedic book, a satire. Just that. (In fact, when buying it, the cashier smiled at me and said “looking for some laughs?”.)
Now, personally, I take World War II very seriously. I’ve grown up very close to the border with Germany – within cycling distance, in fact. My family is part German – my great-grandfather actually operated some of the trains that transported Jewish people. (He also mysteriously disappeared at some point, no one knows what happened to him.) I grew up with yearly memorial services, with memorial statues everywhere, with constant lessons on WWII from primary school through high school and even through university. It’s hard not to take this seriously if all your life you’ve been bombarded with this terrible thing that’s happened.
As such, reading a satire in which Hitler comes back to life and regains influence in our modern age, was mostly unsettling for me. I definitely understand the controversy, and it was most of what I could think of.
There were absolutely moments where I had to laugh, but overall? I was mostly unsettled. Maybe it’s the lifetime of having to deal with WWII as a Serious Topic (which, obviously, it is). Maybe it’s my own inexperience with satire, maybe it’s my incapability to imagine Hitler, who was the cause of millions of deaths and the destruction of entire nations, as just another funny dude.
I do get that it’s supposed to be funny, and I know I take things way too seriously to begin with. I also know that the book does serve as a warning, that if we’re not careful, someone like Hitler might rise again (and as plenty of Europeans will be able to tell you, we’ve been having some..issues, with racism and antisemitism again as of late.)
It didn’t help that I simply didn’t always understand the humour. I’m going to go ahead and guess that most of it is a very specifically German brand of humour, which is one I’m not used to.
Even now, almost 2 months after reading it, I’m still not sure what I really think of it. I just can’t seem to form a proper, single opinion on this book. It’s an interesting book, yes, and definitely one that’s very actual and thematically applicable for these times. But it was a difficult book for me to really understand and appreciate.
So I’m sticking to two stars, and no recommendation either way. This is definitely the type of book you need to decide for yourself if it’s something you’re interested, and not rely on other people’s reviews. It’s the type of book that can split opinions, and the type of book that can easily be misunderstood in its hype.
I might still go and watch the movie adaptation, since that somehow looks more interesting than the book. For those of you interested, here are some subtitled trailers, though the movie might not be available outside of Germany:
But I don’t think I’ll be rereading this book anytime soon.
Did you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!
I’ll see you guys again soon. Take care! 🙂