Look Who’s Back tackles the difficult subject of Hitler in an entirely new light. The plot line is fresh and unique casting Hilter forward in time to Berlin, in the summer of 2011, and mixes Hilter’s outlooks with modern technologies and satire to create an entertaining and engaging read.
Hitler wakes up in a barren part of Berlin and ends up making friends with a newspaper kiosk owner, who offers him a place to stay in the kiosk. Hitler is confused and astonished to discover that Germany has survived and flourished, and is governed by a woman. He is perplexed by people who walk their dogs and stop to pick up the dog poo and labels them as imbeciles. Discovered by some TV producers, who presume that he is a hard-core method acting impersonator, he is thrust into the media spotlight and becomes a YouTube sensation.
Despite the fame, Hitler struggles with modern technologies and it is these fumbling moments, the acute portrayals of how someone unfamiliar with mobiles phones, computers, email and flat screen televisions that add depth and colour to the character. Written in the first person, the reader gains access to Hitler’s own musings, his confusion and frustrations, which Timur Vermes has written with skill. There are many smart, comic moments, such as the scene involving Hiltler taking his soldier’s suit to Yilmar’s Blitz Cleaners and then later his rant at the TV producers about knowing where his uniform was at all times, which made me laugh out loud.
Timur Vermes has succeeded in creating a personality and voice for Hitler, through the use of language and writing style, which all serve to create a believable and, dare I say it, somewhat endearing character, rants aside. Vermes’s Hitler shows confusion, vulnerability at being in this new world and is even concerned about his assistant, which serves to humanise the character. Ther e is a strong political slant that at times was a little boring. I’m not a huge fan of politics, and so that could be due to my lack of political interest rather than a reflection on the writing. Underneath the satire and the comedy, the reader is also faced with the machinations of the man who actively was supported by the public, the horrors that he committed, and how easy it is for a personality to gain a following by different publics in our media-saturated world.
Overall, I found the storyline to be an interesting reinvention of Hitler and how the use of social media and what constitutes comedy can turn a dark historical figure into one of comedic relief.
Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes (MacLehose Press 2014)
Originally published in Germany with the title Er is wieder da by Eichborn, a division of Bastei Lubbe Publishing Group, 2012.