I’d seen a lot of hype about Look Who’s Back on Instagram so when I finally walked past it in Foyles, I had to buy it. Translated from German, Look Who’s Back is the story of a world in which Hitler exists again. Hitler wakes up in 2011, having inexplicably time travelled from the 1940s. He has no recollection of the end of the war and is incredibly confused by modern Berlin. He is recognised instantly by those he crosses but nobody takes him seriously and they think his political rants are all a joke. It’s not long before he’s a YouTube star with his own television programme and a worrying number of fans.
Timur Vernes presents readers with a satirical story that tackles the most taboo of subjects: Adolf Hitler. He has created a character who is absolutely ridiculous, downright hilarious at times, that somehow manages to turn himself into a celebrity. Whilst most of the things that Hitler says are outrageous, some of the comments he makes about modern society are shockingly accurate and force you to take a step back and reconsider today’s world. Obviously Hitler doesn’t understand modern technology or society and this lack of comprehension means that he gives us a fresh perspective on items and customs that we are all very familiar with today. The world as a whole is obsessed with the internet, social media and celebrities and these are all important themes in Look Who’s Back.
Something to note is that it is incredibly difficult to translate humour. As a languages student who is currently living abroad, I can tell you that it is so difficult to convey something funny in another language and a different culture. This book has you sniggering at Hitler’s confusion in the modern world and his comments about society and different cultures are nothing short of hilarious. There is a very fine line between something being humourous and inappropriate but Vernes has tread carefully and is on the right side of funny. A lot of credit must also go to the translator, Jamie Bulloch, who helped bringed this story to life in English.
Whilst many have criticised Vernes for writing what they deem to be a completely inappropriate and insensitive book, he has touched upon something very real. Take for example, the recent election in the UK. Many people think that Nigel Farage (UKIP) is an idiot and that his policies are extreme, and yet in the end he managed to gather 2 million British votes. This is but just one example of how dangerous ‘ridiculous’ people can be once they’re put into a position of power.
This book is more about making people think and exploring ideas rather than plot. Hitler’s mysterious appearance in the twenty-first century is never explained. When I finished reading this book, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a little unfinished. I wanted to know more and instead leaving us with a cliffhanger, I felt we had an unfinished story. Vernes creates a fantastic character and his story is all set up very well, but I think it needed to go a little deeper. Having read the blurb of the book, there were no major plot twists or shocking events, which I think were needed for that extra umph.
All in all, I was slightly disappointed in Look Who’s Back. There was simply too much hype about this book which inevitably created very high expectations and unfortunately it didn’t quite reach them. The idea behind this story is very original and it raises some interesting (and important) questions about the role of social media in society and how dangerous it can be; however, I think the story needed more than just an original idea. That said, I still think this is a very important book and is one that should be read by all. The idea that someone like Hitler could rise again in modern society through ‘jokes’ and manipulation of social media is a very worrying thought. More and more YouTube celebrities are being made each year and young people are starting to look up to them. Arguably, these people have more power than say actors or singers, because they are marketed as ‘real’ people, and should they abuse that power, there could be serious repercussions. For those interested in history and politics, or just original thinking, this is still well worth a read.