Wow, this book has an amazing cover! It jumps out off the shelf an demands to be read. The designer must be given huge credit for the success of the book. They have designed something which is simple, bold and brave and perfectly reflects the book’s contents.
The book itself is a fish out of water story of a person transplanted to another time, with the astonishing twist that this person is Adolf Hitler! It is always interesting to see the modern world through the eyes of someone from the past, but it is even more fascinating to see it from the point of view of one of the worst people ever to have lived.
This is a really clever satire. Vermes manages to balance the characterization of Hitler as at once both completely delusional and on occasions surprisingly insightful and perceptive about the things which ail modern society such as the proliferation of Starbucks, the woefulness of daytime TV and the ‘industralisation’ of Christmas.
The plot follows Hitler who, after his suicide, wakes up in 2011 and becomes a huge comic TV star. He thinks he is still a political figure who is forwarding his own agenda, but in fact people are laughing at his values and he is seen by the public to stand for the opposite values.
Using Hitler in this way is an incredibly brave and original choice by the author, I’m not sure it’s entirely appropriate but I really did enjoy this book.
Right up until the end, this novel was surprising me. The most audacious decision comes at the end of the book when Vermes chooses to give Hitler a relatively happy ending. Throughout the novel I was waiting for his downfall or comeuppance and it simply never comes.
Translating this novel into English must have been incredibly challenging, quite a lot of the humour comes from wordplay or a knowledge of German politics. I think the translation is done well, although there are a few sections which I thought felt a bit muddled or cloudy. This may be due to the fact that large sections of the book are narrated in Hitler’s monologue and he has a rather strange old-fashioned voice.