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Er ist wieder da: Der Roman by Timur Vermes
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Er ist wieder da: Der Roman (original 2012; edition 2013)

by Timur Vermes

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Member:PhysiCaRollMops
Title:Er ist wieder da: Der Roman
Authors:Timur Vermes
Info:Eichborn Verlag (2013), Edition: 13, Gebundene Ausgabe, 400 pages
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Er ist wieder da by Timur Vermes (2012)

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English (13)  German (9)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (28)
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The premise of the novel is that Adolf Hitler unaccountably finds himself alive and well and in the Berlin of 2011. His uniform smells of petrol, he has a headache, and the last thing he can remember is sitting on a couch in the bunker with Eva. Obviously there must be a reason why he's there: it doesn't take him long to work out that the German nation is in a mess and needs a strong and capable leader to bring it back onto the right path. And he soon finds the way to get his message out to the German people when he gets a place on TV as a Hitler-impersonator (what else?) on a satirical comedy show.

The real strength of the book is the daring idea of using Hitler as first-person narrator. Vermes very effectively captures the characteristic style of Hitler's rhetoric - easy to imitate for a sentence or two, but it's quite an achievement to do it for a whole book without becoming repetitive. I didn't detect any obvious wrong notes: Vermes has clearly done his research quite thoroughly. (The third variation on "Seit 5:45 Uhr wird jetzt zurückgeschossen!" was probably one too many, however...)

Hitler always remains in character, taking himself entirely seriously, continuing to believe in his deluded ideas, and never doubting for a second that he has always done the right thing. Vermes has to make sure that the reader is aware of the enormity of the moral split that is going on here: Hitler presents himself as the war veteran, the simple man of the people, the war leader carrying the responsibilities for his people, and the cuddly Onkel Wolf who liked to joke around with his secretaries and eat cream cakes, but we're not allowed to forget what else he presided over. Sometimes this shift works and sometimes it doesn't.

The idea of making Hitler into a comedian is also clever: Vermes is making the (perhaps not entirely original) point that we live in a world where you get more attention as a clown than you do as a politician, and reinforcing it with the paradox that in modern Germany, dressing up as Hitler would give you the freedom to say things that would otherwise be totally unacceptable. It's also interesting how Vermes cleverly manages the humour: Hitler, even though he's a professional comedian, never says anything that's obviously calculated to be funny, but as narrator he is aware that his comments (which are often extremely funny because of the context) make people laugh, and this doesn't bother him. If people are laughing at what he says, it means that they are listening to him. It's noticeable that Vermes doesn't give Hitler a new political programme for the 21st century. He's against a lot of the things he sees around him, but we're never told what he's for, other than restoring Germany's borders to what they were.

Some of the other jokes in the book are a bit more obvious: there's a certain amount of rather predictable Rip-van-Winkle stuff about Hitler discovering the oddities of the modern world, and there are a lot of in-jokes about German newspapers, politicians, and TV shows (some of which I certainly missed). Not everything was at the same high level of comedy as Hitler's wildly inappropriate speeches, but I did laugh a great deal at this book. I didn't feel very comfortable about finding it so funny, though!

It's notable that reviews of this book outside Germany tend to be rather lukewarm. I suspect that it loses a lot of its transgressive effect in translation (in Germany, it's still problematic to talk about Hitler in any context other than a strictly didactic one; English readers probably think about Mel Brooks or the Monty Python Minehead by-election sketch). Moreover, even a very good translation probably wouldn't capture the dangerous and disturbing resonance that the Hitler rhetorical style has in German. ( )
2 vote thorold | Oct 31, 2014 |
Off beat ,irreverent satire. Loses a lot in translation
Not humorous at times ( )
  sogamonk | Aug 7, 2014 |
Is it morally acceptable to feature Hitler as the rather likeable protagonist of a comic novel? Is it in good taste to turn a mass murderer into a figure of fun? These questions naturally come to mind when faced with Timur Vermes's first novel. The premise is simple - Hitler inexplicably wakes up in modern day Berlin and, mistaken for an uncannily brilliant method actor, lands a programme on national tv. Much of the resulting humour is, predictably, based on the reverse anachronisms raised by the Rip-van-Winkle situation. Hitler is astounded by the technological advances such as the "mouse device", the "internetwork" and the "Vikipedia", which he believes is named after the "intrepid explorer Teutons of old". He is flummoxed by the sight of "madwomen" walking their dogs and cleaning up after them,cannot understand why his goth scretary does not wear wholesome, colourful clothing and is impressed that Herr Starbuck has apparently taken over all the coffee houses in Berlin.

Vermes makes the most out of these scenes, but he is most incisive when he uses his character to satirize modern-day society, politics and media. On the whole, therefore, an entertaining and occasionally thought-provoking read. What is pleasantly surprising is that although the humour is probably quite culture and language-specific, the English translation is zesty, flowing and idiomatic. Kudos to Jamie Bulloch fo this. ( )
1 vote JosephCamilleri | Jul 31, 2014 |
This book takes as its starting point the reappearance of (the real) Hitler in 2011 Berlin and what ensues from there as he tries to discover what has happened to the world in his absence. The cover of my copy describes this novel as "a merciless satire" and I think this is quite accurate. Hitler finds his way onto TV and at once becomes immensely popular - people of course think he is an impersonator but they start to rally to what he is saying (which is exactly the same as what he said in the 1930's). And that is what is frightening - as Hitler points out he was elected to government by the Volk the first time - they were not overwhelmingly coerced into voting for him - could it happen a again? #TimurVermes ( )
  PennyAnne | Jul 27, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Timur Vermesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andersson, KarinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bulloch, JamieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Slobodan DamnjanovićTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Summer 2011. Berlin. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of 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, though - as a brilliant, satirical impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable, happens, and the ranting Hitler takes off, goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own TV show, becomes someone who people listen to. All the while he's still trying to convince people that yes, it really is him, and yes, he really means it. Look Who's Back is a black and brilliant satire of modern media-bloated society, seen through the eyes of the Fuhrer himself. Adolf is by turns repellent, sympathetic and hilarious, but always fascinating. Look Who's Back is outrageously clever, outrageously funny - and outrageously plausible.… (more)

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