LOOK WHO'S BACK: Adventurous Readers book group
Congratulations! Welcome to the Year of Adventurous Reading book group! You've just joined the most exciting and intrepid group of readers out there - and "out there" is precisely where we are about to go. Join us as we journey around the world via its most brilliant, exhilarating, fascinating and addictive fiction. Fasten your seat-belts, and off we go!
Our first book, our February title, is Timur Vermes' bestselling sensation, Look Who's Back, translated from the German by award-winning translator, Jamie Bulloch. We are in Berlin, during the summer of 2011. And so, incredibly, is Adolf Hitler. Waking up on a patch of wasteland, alive and well, the Führer cannot help noticing, almost at once, that things have changed. No Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.
People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. Then 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.
He's back - and he's Führious.
Once you have read Look Who's Back, why not have a go at musing over the below discussion points with your reading group - or join our online discussion by posting in the comments below.
1) Now that you have finished the book, do you find this version of Adolf Hitler a sympathetic character in any way? Why? How comfortable did you find it to be inside his head?
2) How easy was it for you to suspend your disbelief at his resurrection in modern-day Berlin?
3) How do you think this novel might resonate differently in Germany?
4) To what extent is Look Who’s Back a warning about the threat of extremist politicians today?
5) To what extent does the novel succeed as a denouncement of our society’s obsession with the medium over the message?
6) How do you think the story might be continued?
7) To what extent does the choice of first-person narrative enhance the satirical impact of the book?
8) Can you think of comparative novels, plays, film or comedy?
9) Which other historical figures would you like to see resurrected in a novel, and why?
10) How aware were you when reading Look Who’s Back that it is a translation?
11) Would you read Mein Kampf? Why/why not?
Suggested Further Reading
Looking for your next read after Look Who’s Back? We think our list below would be a great place to start.
Kingdom of Twilight by Steven Uhly (translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch)
A powerful, panoramic novel about the aftermath of war across Europe, beginning in 1944 and following the fates of individual characters as they try to make sense of a changed world, and their place in it.
Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander
Like Timur Vermes, Auslander has pulled off an extraordinary feat in this daring and hilarious black comedy that walks the tightrope between humour and offensiveness. Anne Frank is alive and more or less well and living in upstate New York.
News from Berlin by Otto de Kat (translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson)
Part of an elegantly interwoven quartet of short novels by Otto de Kat (Julia, The Longest Night, Man on the Move), a true page-turner about the choices individuals are forced to make in wartime, set between Berlin, London and Switzerland.
Journal by Hélène Berr (translated from the French by David Bellos)
The profoundly moving autobiographical account of a young Jewish girl living in Paris under occupation. It foreshadows the horror of the camps, but it conveys an extraordinary appetite for life, for beauty, for literature and for all that lasts. In the tradition of timeless Holocaust literature such as Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl and Suite Francaise.
Treblinka by Chil Rajchman (translated from the Yiddish by Solon Beinfeld)
If questions raised by Look Who’s Back have left you feeling confused, read this unembellished and exact record of incarceration in, and escape from, Treblinka extermination camp, published in English for the first time only a few years ago. It contains the essay “The Hell of Treblinka” by Vasily Grossman, Russian war journalist and author of Life and Fate.
Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past is being Normalized in Contemporary Culture by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld
An immensely readable study of how the depiction of the Second World War, the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler have been viewed in scholarly works, popular novels, feature films and online. A major contribution to our understanding of current memories of the Third Reich and their consequences, it’s an excellent counterpoint to Look Who’s Back.