Note: This review is from my Goodreads account. I will be periodically be sharing my reviews on that site to my blog. Please enjoy.
I learned about this book after reading a review in The Wall Street Journal. Reading the review alone left me gasping for air because I was laughing so hard. Now that I have finally gotten the book and read it myself, I am glad to say that it was just as enjoyable as I expected.
The premise of this book is that Adolf Hitler wakes up in an empty lot in Berlin in 2011 with no memory of anything that happened after 1945. He is at first astounded at what he sees, but soon adapts to modern life while digesting the status quo of contemporary Germany through his rather… unique point-of-view. He winds up as a viral YouTube sensation as he struggles to make it clear that yes, he is the real Hitler, and yes, he means every word he says.
One half of the genius of this book is that it manages to humanize one of the most vilified characters of modern history, Adolf Hitler. As another reviewer wrote elsewhere, he is neither likable nor unlikable, he simply is. Since Hitler is the narrator of his own first-person account of this admittedly farcical story, the fact that Vermes managed to pull off such a feet is incredible. We see him fiddle with a television set, struggle with a bad night’s sleep, and express genuine sorrow.
The other half of the genius of “Look Who’s Back” lays in the originality of its premise and the execution thereof. The book is very much a darkly comedic satire, mocking the superficiality of the YouTube generation through one of the greatest monsters in history. Hitler’s take on everything from dogs to cell phones to Vladimir Putin is nothing short of hilarious. It edges toward the disturbing, however, when you realize that you’re laughing in the context of the antics of a fictionalized version of, well, Hitler.
A lot of this book depends on the reader’s knowledge of German pop culture, politics, and Hitler’s personal biography, but a short glossary in the back of my English edition manages to more of less clear this up for non-Germans. Granted, the book is probably much funnier for Germans, but I will be the first to declare that it remains a brilliant parody of our modern celebrity culture.