Hitler parody novel will be translated into English this spring

'Look Who's Back' by Timur Vermes, the novel about Adolf Hitler living in modern-day Berlin that became a hit in Germany, will become available in the UK this April.

'Look Who's Back' is by Timur Vermes.

Laughing at Hitler.

That, it seems is the latest trend in Germany, where a bevy of recent books, plays, TV shows, and more portray the 20th-century Nazi leader not as a demon to be feared but as a fool to be mocked.

And one of the most eyebrow-raising among them, a German novel that re-imagines Hitler waking from a 66-year slumber and finding himself in modern-day Berlin, is about to be translated into English, introducing scores of English-speaking writers to an entirely new caricature of the Nazi dictator. 

“Er Ist Wieder Da,” or “Look Who’s Back,” by Timur Vermes, will hit British bookshelves this April. The 400-page book is expected to do well. It sold more than a million copies in Germany, where it also fueled a ferocious debate.

As we reported in an earlier post, the book imagines Adolf Hitler finding himself in 21st-century Berlin, where he “is bewildered to find himself in a modern Germany ruled by a woman and populated by millions of Turks.” Gamely, however, a bemused Hitler “enters politics, discovers jeans and email, and becomes a modern-day celebrity complete with a role on a popular Turkish-German TV show.”

In the book, Germans think Hitler is an extra from a World War II film who stubbornly stays in character and begin attending comedy shows to see the “lookalike” perform. He gets more and more attention for his extreme views on such issues as abortion, German Muslims, and the female leader of his country until he becomes a YouTube sensation known as “loony YouTube Hitler.”

The point, of course, is that in modern Germany, Hitler is a laughingstock, an idiot.

German audiences, it turns out, have already been introduced to the idea of laughing at Hitler. When the English translation hits shelves April 3, it will, as NPR put it, “test how comfortable English-speaking audiences are with laughing about Hitler.”

Not surprisingly, the novel has its critics, including those who say it trivializes Hitler’s crimes by cracking jokes. Others call it tasteless or say it didn’t go far enough: “A mediocre joke that suddenly got successful,” author Daniel Erk said.

But its defenders insist the book forces readers to see Hitler in a different light.

“For decades, we learned to see him not as a human being but as a demon," Klaus Cäsar Zehrer, a German satirist and historian, told the Guardian. "Now that's changing, and he's tilting over into caricature: he used to be the ultimate villain, now he is the ultimate idiot."

Author Vermes says his book doesn’t necessarily set out to transform views – simply encourage readers to question their beliefs.

"Books don't have to educate or turn people into better human beings – they can also just ask questions. If mine makes some readers realize that dictators aren't necessarily instantly recognizable as such, then I consider it a success."

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Hitler parody novel will be translated into English this spring
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today