Tag Archives: literature

Book Opinion: Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

img_0758

Adolph Hitler.

I was raised by parents and grandparents who lived through WWII and the Great Depression. I didn’t realize until about ten years ago, that the America I grew up in was very post war in its sensibilities. I was surrounded by the greatest generation and their independence and strength. I was raised on those values, and one thing that has always fascinated me because of its extremity is WWII era Germany. I couldn’t understand it, and Adolph Hitler was and is, the ultimate boogie man. One minute you see him smiling and petting his dog in what looked like a scene that anybody would be in, the next minute you see him screaming and shaking his fist, spittle flying, weird little bangs separating, thousands of sycophants Seig Heiling and snapping up that infamous salute.

The pageantry created by the Nazis was second to none. Red, black, and white go so well together after all. The uniforms were flashy and they made every effort to show mainly tall, well-built, handsome, blue-eyed blondes to reinforce their agenda. The parades, the bonfires, (hey, are those BOOKS in there?) the snappy flags and the shiny black cars. Then you find out about the beatings, murder, destruction, concentration camps and world domination ambitions, and the contradiction that was Nazi Germany becomes something that you try to figure out, but can’t.

When I saw this book at Jo-Beth Booksellers, I couldn’t resist. I read the book jacket, so I knew it was satire, but I had to see what Timur Vermes imagined the Furher (sorry, I don’t know how to do umlauts) would do if he came back. What I found was more an indictment of modern civilization than an indictment of Herr Hitler, although I guess you can’t really make him any worse than he already is.

So anyway, Adolph wakes up on a beautiful, blue sky, sunny day in a vacant lot somewhere in Berlin. At first, he looks around for signs of the war going on, but sees none. He is in full uniform, it’s a little smudged and smells like gasoline from a cleaning attempt, but overall, he’s in pretty good shape. He winds up being taken in by a newspaper kiosk guy who tells him the year and helps him out. He also hooks him up with tv producers because he thinks the Hitler thing is an act.

Hitler is a smart guy obviously and figures out really quickly that something strange has happened and he wants to get his political career going again. To make a long story short, he learns about modern technology and people and finds all of it ridiculous, still hates Jews etc., and becomes a big celebrity. And of course, nobody believes him. The entire country is furious that he won’t reveal his real name, because they don’t believe him, and he’s ready to call in the SS to take care of the people who keep asking. Just like vampires, werewolves, and witches, modern society doesn’t believe in the monster, and ultimately, it’ll cause them trouble.  By the end, you can see that if he remains persistent, the modern sheeple are going to end up following him.

I enjoyed the book overall. It made me think about how ridiculous modern society is. It pointed out yet again, that even though a threat, or a negative anomaly can be as plain as the nose on your face, we often, in our enlightened modernity, deny it, even as it’s taking over our lives. I’d kind of like Vermes to write a sequel, where the monster really comes roaring back, in all of his muderous, evil, mastermind glory, not funny this time.  It would be the most successful horror story of all time.

If you enjoy satire, you might want to give this one a look. It really did have a number of LOL moments, and the way the speeches he makes are laid out in the book, you can almost hear that old black and white boogie man screaming, and shaking his fist, spittle flying, and weird little bangs separating.

Have a great day, and spend part of it with a great book. 😊

 

Advertisements

So I’m Reading THIS Crazy Thing…

 

img_0758

This right here is an intrigue. Strange, yes. Do I like it? Maybe. Full on Opinion in the next few days…

Book Opinion: My Mother’s Secret by J.L. Witterick

2

I was in elementary school in the 1970’s, and it has only been in the last few years that I have realized that the world I grew up in was very much a post WWII place. John Wayne won the war in the Pacific every weekend on television in old black and white movies. The old people (grandparents) talked incessantly about the Depression and the war. My mother told me stories of her parents planning to cut her hair and dress her like a boy if the Germans invaded the country. She also told me stories of drilling with fake wooden rifles at school as a matter of course. My Mammaw told me about the families with the stars commemorating their service people in the window, and how the whole neighborhood heard the mother next-door scream when she got word that her son had been killed. My Grandfather was an air raid warden and when my Mammaw died, we found ration books in her things. There was also a plethora of books about the war and the Holocaust and the Nazis. I became interested in the stories when I was very young. I remember reading Anne Frank’s story, and I remember a book called Marta and the Nazis about a young girl in WWII Germany.

I still like to read about the Second World War. I am completely fascinated by the fact that an entire country full of intelligent, normal, people could fall for the charisma and promises of Hitler. I understand what post WWI Germany was like. I understand the desperation, and the longing for a leader to make it all better. I am unable to understand what I call, for lack of a better word, mass hypnosis that allowed such hideous atrocities to be perpetrated against so many innocents. I don’t understand why more people couldn’t see it coming, when it is so obvious what was happening. I don’t understand how people can do those things to other people.

My Mother’s Secret, by J.L. Witterick, is a fictionalized representation of the true story of Franciszka Halamajowa, and her daughter Helena, and peripherally, her son, Damian. Franciszka was Polish and married to a Ukrainian man. They moved to Germany because there were more opportunities for a better life there than in Poland. Franciszka eventually left her abusive husband, who had fallen hook line and sinker for the Nazis, and returned to Poland with her children. They were able to make a new life for themselves, and were living fairly well considering the level of poverty in Sokal, Poland when the Nazis invaded and the war broke out.

Before the war, Sokal, Poland was home to 6,000 Jews. After the war, 30 were left and half of them were saved by Franciszka. This little, sparely written book, that almost made me feel as if I were reading poetry, recounts the perils of hiding Jews just outside the Jewish ghetto, surrounded by German troops with itchy trigger fingers. The story is told without great gobs of gross, excruciating, explicit details of atrocities, which may seem to some people as if that aspect is being played down, but in reality, it makes the menace more real because you are less overwhelmed by the horror. These are people going about their regular lives, when all of a sudden, they are placed in a situation where doing the right thing could end their lives any minute.

We are also told the stories of the people who had to hide. One day, they were working in factories, or as doctors in hospitals, respected and respectable, and in the blink of an eye, they had to abandon everything and hide like animals in a burrow, just to survive. There is also a surprise “hider” that I won’t tell you about, but his life was hanging by the same thin thread as the Jews.

This book is a VERY quick read. Some of the chapters are only a paragraph long, and it is this unique way of breaking up the story that makes it sometimes feel like poetry. I think this would be a great book to teach just about any student seventh grade or above. It could be used in language arts or history, even ethics or government. If you are looking for historical fiction that illustrates the good in human beings even in the midst of horror, this might be the book for you. I felt so uplifted at the end; I think you would too.

Have a great day, and spend part of it with a good book.