Temur Vimes’ Look Who’s Back approaches the most taboo of subjects, Adolf Hitler, through the medium of satirical fiction. It dares to portray Hitler as a human being, as charming as he is repellent, as naive as he is fiercely intelligent. In parts it works really well, offering an insightful look at the man within the monster, but it is also guilty of being rather one-dimensional and overly reliant on its two central conceits.
The novel begins in Berlin, during the summer of 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. He barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman. But 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.
I found Look Who’s Back to be an okay read. I was first attracted to it due to the author’s bravery at casting Adolf Hitler as its lead, particularly in portraying him as a human being capable of possessing human traits such as charm, sympathy and intelligence. Not since Bruno Ganz played Hitler in the feature film Downfall have I found a portrayal so convincing and authentic. What Hitler did was monstrous, horrific and still very difficult to comprehend but during my studies of Hitler’s Germany at school I found many mentions of how charming he was capable of being, how charismatic he was. And this is the aspect of this book I found most fascinating as it helps to explain how such a small, undistinguished, seemingly insignificant man could rise to such power and sway the thoughts and minds of so many. And this it does very well, showing a man whose ideals are repugnant but whose self-belief is so powerful and unwavering that he could captivate and almost spell-bind those he meets and those who hear him speak.
But it is not without its weaker elements. It plays heavily on the fish out water/man out of his time theme which is only engaging for so long before becoming a little tiresome. Hitler watching people pick up their dog’s leavings in plastic bags, Hitler using a television, Hitler using a computer and so on… It also relies on the reader believing that everyone Hitler meets believes he is simply a flawless impersonator who never breaks out of the role – and again this is repeated too many times for my personal tastes.
However, those issues aside it is an intelligent satire on the press, media and celebrity with an ending that is powerfully disquieting, leaving the reader to wonder if Hitler, or someone with the same beliefs, could once again rise to a position of influence and power.
Review by Floresiensis
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 hi [...]
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