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Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes

Ich bin ein naughty boy...
I recall chortling along at the age of fifteen or so to those gadabouts with their silly walks and dead Nordic psittacines when, in a small boarding house in Minehead, Somerset, Bimmler, Ron Vibbentrop and one Mr Hilter sat planning a little hike to Bideford but are gently chided by the newcomers that the map they have is of Stalingrad. "Not much fun in Stalingrad," Mr Hilter agrees with the landlady through gritted teeth.

To my adolescent mind, it was comedy gold, the idea that 'Mein Dickie Old Chum' was billeted in a B&B whilst plotting his return to power via the North Minehead bye-elections, surrounded by typical holidaying bourgeois couples with the political nous of a wiener schnitzel. 

Fast forward a mere forty five years* and along comes Timur Vermes** and his satire. Now, I don't have enough knowledge of the burgeoning (or otherwise) German satire scene to confidently place this work into context. Is there really a battery of Hitler impersonators roaming the fringes of German comedy shows? I guess I could find out but... I have to put lard on the cat's boil. Were the German book-buying public really "...stunned and then thrilled... [by the book's] fearless approach to the most taboo of subjects"? I'll take MacLehose Press' word for it. If we assume the first is correct, shouldn't the second be particularly unlikely? Like I said, I'll not question the publisher's honesty. Whatever your conclusions, what is clearly true is that given the success of the book, the writerly God-head was heavily pregnant with the idea of a novel from Hitler's point of view. 

Woken from a dreamless sleep and with no recollection of the means by which his situation was precipitated Hitler finds himself not dead in his bunker, but rather in a vacant lot in Berlin, in the year 2011, in military dress and all alone. Remarkably, but key to the success of such a Harry Turtledove-esque 'what if' plot device, his appearance goes unremarked, due to the apparent fashion for Hitler impersonators. This is Hitler's foothold on the new century and he quickly carves open the market in satire by exploiting the public's staunch belief that no-one would ever really dare to truly sympathise with Hitler, and that they're laughing at him, not with him, while at every chance explaining to the reader how his excruciating mental preparation and training help him to keep the public eating out of his hands.

In many ways, it's a fairly broad satire of somewhat tired archetypes - the stat-obsessed media exec, the honest news agent, the chameleonic politician, the sweaty, repugnant modern neo-fascists; in many passages, our peculiarly avuncular protagonist expounds at sometimes extreme length any number of topics with mixed success - his theories on the most patriotic dog breeds is an entertaining idea but is unconvincingly delivered - and one reader at least shared my opinion that it just went on too long. But for all that, it did make me titter; I was gently amused in several places by what should really have been a very silly and  unlikely novel. So for this reason if for none other*** Vermes' should be applauded for his efforts, and his efforts should be recognised by a broad readership. Do pick up a copy. Schnell!

"Cool it, Fürher cat!"

* I should point out this is forty five years from first broadcast, not from when I was fifteen years old. These are laughter lines.
** Vermes would have been approximately two when episode 12 of season one of Monty Python's Flying Circus was first aired in the UK. It makes you wonder what took him so long to catch on.
*** Of course there is the permanent underlying reason that references to Godwin's Law and Hitler in general make my wife crazy.


How's about that then?

Metaliterature - what meaning to have is this for meaning?

Not a review this time, more of a curiosity. It seems I'm receiving lots of hits from Russia (Здравствуйте России!) from people searching for the definition of "metaliterature". As such, it is something of a bespoke word, created to fit a need and probably not yet recognized outside literary theory / criticism circles (Merriam-Webster Online certainly don't like it). I was wondering what they typed in to end up here, so, for fun (it's not fun, sorry) I thought I'd bung it in Google Translate and see what came out. As it turns out, one needs a little hyphen for the rather ponderous machine to understand it, and even then only does half the job (meta seems to be meta in any language). 
Incidentally, below is, ironically, a Google Chrome Thesaurus definition* of "meta":

met·a Adjective/ˈmetə/
(of a creative work) Referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referentialInterestingly (not interesting, sorry) it says this for the full term, t…

Under The Dust by Jordi Coca

So, wheel of fortune, count to 29, pin the tail, freebies off of peeps on Twitter etc. etc. Whatever the methods sometimes employed to pick the next book in my intertextual experience, the one that brought me to Jordi Coca brought me to a whopping great slice of nostalgia. Before I'd even opened it, it brought to mind Richard Gwyn, himself a published poet, author, biographer, translator and course director of the MA Creative Writing course at Cardiff University, who I recall for some odd reason gently encouraging me to read this novel, and by whose own work I was quietly impressed at the time. He was also an advocate of Roberto Bolaño, another writer in whose work I can immerse myself but from which I emerge drained, as mentioned previously. Before that, though, there is this sticker on the front, declaring 'Signed by the Author at Waterstone's'. It is indeed signed by Jordi Coca, not adding any particular intrinsic value to the book, not for me anyway, but more impor…

Hereward: The Last Englishman by Peter Rex

By all accounts, Hereward was the guerrilla scourge of the invading Norman armies in eleventh century Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, famous for isolating and dismembering members of the Norman nobility who strayed too far from home, and also for trashing Peterborough and hiding on an island. Called variously (and often erroneously) The Wake, The Exile or The Outlaw, his infamy was such that families in search of noble English lineage have usurped his "heroism" for their own glory even until this very day. Rex delights in highlighting one author's particular folly, entitled Hereward, The Saxon Patriot, in which Lieutenant-General Harward attempts to run his antecedents right back to the loins of the eponymous gentleman-rogue. 

Having only read the introduction to Peter Rex's myth-busting (and often ill-edited) work, I was already struck by an initial thought which ran thus: if as Rex asserts Hereward was the son of Asketil Tokison, a descendant of a wealthy Danish family …

A Death In The Family: My Struggle Volume 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I sit here, wearing my limited edition Knausgaard t-shirt, immensely grateful to the kind people at Vintage Books for their surprising gift of the first four novels (and aforementioned t-shirt) simply as a result of being able to post a comment on their YouTube Vlog. There may have been a hidden agenda, considering I'm a book blogger (What, interrobang, a book blogger, interrobang and so on...) but I prefer to believe they picked me at random. Because I'm ace. 
Nonetheless, I had no idea what to expect of these books. I did do a little reading, and found lots of very interesting articles about Karl Ove Knausgaard, including this entertaining one in the Wall Street Journal. But in all honesty, nothing prepared me for reading them, and I can see why they cause controversy and consternation wherever they are translated (which is pretty much everywhere).
First off, being intelligent and perspicacious readers as I trust you all to be, you will no doubt have spotted the whole Godwin&#…