Thursday, April 2, 2015

"Er ist wieder da" by Timur Vermes

“Er ist wieder Da” or “Look Who’s Back” in English is a satire that was published in German back in 2012. It tells the story of Adolf Hitler, waking up inexplicably in modern-day Berlin. He approaches life in the current culture viewing everything through his outdated, racist, ideology and proceeds to attempt to regain his position as leader of the German people to repair all the damage he sees around him. Of course, people recognize him but assume that he is an impersonator. The sheer quality of his “act” leads to him being placed on television.

It is the reactions of the public the shoot him to the highest of successes.

This book is at once superbly biting and insightful satire, but also scary commentary on the nature of Hitler’s rise to power. The way it is written, one could imagine people quickly re-embracing the ideology Hitler espoused. Especially in the circumstances of the novel, where they assume it is all some clever act that exposes realities that the culture prefers to ignore or gloss over.

Timur Vermes clearly has a lot of trust in his readers. He plays his comedy and commentary very straight. He assumes that people will see the horror underlining the story here, and that they will see the warning signs in today’s Europe that bear close examination in light of the not too distant past. That credit that he gives the readers may be dangerously naïve.

After all, reading the book now in 2015, one sees the small but easily roused groups of people that gave into very similar rhetoric this past winter. More now than ever it bears mentioning that we need to truly remember and understand history, or it would be quite plausible to repeat it.

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