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Er ist wieder da: Der Roman by Timur Vermes

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

by Timur Vermes

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7715611,991 (3.42)45
Title:Er ist wieder da: Der Roman
Authors:Timur Vermes
Info:Eichborn Verlag (2013), Edition: 13, Gebundene Ausgabe, 400 pages
Collections:Your library

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Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes (2012)



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English (38)  German (10)  French (2)  Italian (2)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (56)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
You need to have a little understanding of modern German society to really appreciate this book.
Still, it left me a bit wanting in the second half and disappointed in the end but there are some gems in there. ( )
  ossi | Aug 27, 2016 |
just not my type of humor only funny part was the comparions of Angels Merkel to a Trauerweide. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Jun 23, 2016 |
I had to let this book go, I'm afraid. I feel that if you're going to write a satirical novel about one of history's most hated people, you should go big or go home. This book started off interestingly enough but then there's a tough slog a third of the way into the book where I think that you'd have to know a lot more about the individuals closest to Hitler to understand the 'in' jokes. Frankly, it stopped being interesting.

Also, I felt that Hitler's characterisation was way off. He's portrayed as kind of dopey and bumbling and occasionally you could forget who it is we're actually reading about. This was not for me. ( )
  BuffyBarber | Jun 5, 2016 |
"'We're not getting anywhere here,' she said indignantly. 'Look, I'm not dead, am I?'
'You may be sorry to hear this,' I said, 'but nor am I.'"
(pg. 231)

Let's get the usual stuff out of the way first, because – as with all satire – the message is the most important thing and needs discussing in more depth. Look Who's Back is funny, articulate and, whilst possessing little in the way of plot, engrossing for its entire length. Much of the regular humour – to be distinguished from the black humour evident in the satirical elements – comes from classic 'fish out of water' experiences as Hitler interacts with the modern world and its peculiarities. Vermes writes well (and, as always, kudos should also go to the translator – in this case, Jamie Bulloch) and whilst the book gradually lost a bit of steam it still crossed the finish line with energy to spare. The ending felt a bit rushed, but how do you end a story like this? Do the usual story elements – plot, character, setting – even matter when a book has such an overt and compelling message?

Well, I say 'overt'. There is always the danger in satire that people will take you seriously and whilst that is always a fault in the reader than in the book itself, Vermes does sail dangerously close to the wind. The concept of Look Who's Back is that Adolf Hitler (does he need an introduction?) wakes up in the present day – 2011 – where people are amused by what they see as a stand-up comedian who refuses to break character. Hitler becomes more popular – his strain of conservative populist and political opportunism striking as much of a chord today as it did back in the 1930s – until, before you know it, people are saying, you know, actually, 'it wasn't all bad' (pg. 365).

Vermes' aim here, of course, is not to advocate National Socialism but to remind us of the oft-forgotten lesson that the rise of Hitler wasn't a historical or cultural aberration. Hitler was liked by the German people and his government was democratically elected. When Vermes' Hitler caustically states that "even back then, passing off a gas chamber as a shower room was not exactly the height of subtlety" (pg. 297), he is exposing the myth that ordinary Germans were blameless in the Nazi years. Nazism wasn't an aberration or a fluke; it built on the prejudices and insecurities of the ordinary German people to seize power. And people still have prejudices and insecurities nowadays, by the bucketload. The Nazis weren't 'inhuman' (strictly speaking) or 'demons': they were flesh and blood and, because of this, there are potential Hitlers and Himmlers and Heydrichs out there still. And, even more disconcertingly, there are plenty of ordinary people out there quite willing to 'sieg heil' in the right (or wrong) circumstances, and most of them don't do us the courtesy of shaving their heads and getting swastika tattoos. Many are like you and me. Indeed, you and I could, in the circumstances, become two of them.

The allusions to this theme will be obvious to the attentive reader, and they are so numerous that to give examples would be to all but reproduce large swathes of the book. At the very least, consider the quote with which I opened this review. When Hitler says he is not dead, there is a double meaning (Vermes is fond of these). Not only is he not dead, but the ideologies, prejudices and basic human frailties which propelled him to power are not dead either. Like all good satirists, Vermes exposes our complacency.

However, as is often the case with satire, Vermes' message can be so subtle or disguised or seemingly straight-faced that it might backfire. In giving us Hitler's thoughts on a number of contemporary issues – a peculiar but believable mix of the conservative and the progressive – Vermes is fulfilling his satirical remit of showing us that Hitler was a real person and not a cartoonish demon, but in doing so he also makes Hitler – whisper it – in some ways likeable or at least agreeable. Hitler's thoughts on modern celebrity and mass media, or politics, or the state of society, may well chime with the reader's own opinions. There is the very real danger at times that Look Who's Back could be seen, in some quarters, as a rehabilitation of the man.

In a time of rising anti-Semitism in the West, Vermes' book is paradoxically both welcome and unwelcome. In showing Hitler as human rather than aberration, Vermes is performing the valuable service of warning against such divisive and opportunistic populism. Yet in an age where people vote for personable politicians they feel they could share a beer with, humanising Hitler also runs the risk of making his views seem palatable, and the use of humour risks trivialising his crimes. But such is the double-edge of satire. For my part, I wholeheartedly understood Vermes' intention. In reading Look Who's Back, you feel uncomfortable that you are agreeing with Hitler – even if on trivial stuff. Then you realise this is exactly how a real Hitler would get people onside. Then you realise this is partly why we need to work so diligently and conscientiously at improving our own society and remedying its injustices: so that we are less susceptible to being manipulated in such a way. With all the entailing consequences.

Update (4th May): Having since watched the excellent German film adaptation of Look Who's Back, I love it even more. Whilst providing less belly-laughs than the book, it nevertheless presents the central message much more emphatically; the weakest part of the book (its ending) becomes the strongest part of the film. It's rare to find a film adaptation which captures so perfectly both the essence and the particulars of the book it's based on. A good show all round.
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
Certainly humorous in parts but somehow the joke wears thin very quickly, and what is the fundamental and very obvious point of this satire feels rushed at the end.
But most disturbing is the likeability of Hitler in this novel, coming over as a rather charming and ultimately benevolent elderly uncle who just happens to have some rather embarrassing slightly racist tendencies. Some may say that is the point but I’m not sure that even in these more modern and compassionate times of understanding and equality we should attempt to cast Hitler in a warm light, even in a “merciless satire”. ( )
  stevierbrown | Mar 22, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Timur Vermesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andersson, KarinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bulloch, JamieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Slobodan DamnjanovićTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiebel, JohannesCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Das Volk hat mich wohl am meisten überrascht.
It was probably the German people, the Volk, which surprised me most of all.
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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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