Uh-uh, studying’s going great, thank you! 😀 So great in fact, that I’ve almost totally and completely given it up in favour of reading this brilliant book and watching Home for the holidays – which is basically your average dysfunctional family movie, but which I had to watch because – guess what? – it stars Robert Downey jr. Yup, I’m nursing my new found obsession and it’s growing…
So anyways, I kinda figure no one really cares about that movie, so I’ll get on with the book. Which, did I already say – is brilliant? Of course, it’s Kurt Vonnegut, he can only be brilliant I think, but still 😛 The book’s about Howard W. Campbell jr. – a Nazi agitator who is, in fact, an American spy. Now, 20 years after WWII ended, he is awaiting his trial in a Israeli prison, for war crimes, since only 3 people knew he was a spy, and they can’t offer him protection any longer.
The book is written as a memoir by the imprisoned Campbell, in which he recalls the hows and whys of his transformation from a playwright specialised in romantic, non-politic plays to a star of the German propagandist machine. Throughout this journey he will in be contact with some of the more famous faces of WWII Germany (i.e. Adolf Eichmann), with an American White Supremacists organisation run by a dentist, with a Russian spy….you know, colourful characters to make an interesting story. What I loved the most was the permanent reminder that every story has to have a morale – starting with the “Editor’s Note”, where Vonnegut gives about 3 or 4 suggestions as to what this morale might be. And the one I see most fitting goes something like this “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend”. So, which one is the real Howard? The American spy who sacrificed himself for the sake of his wife, or the Nazi who offered the most quotable justifications of hatred towards Jews and other races live on the radio? He claims to have known all along that all he said were atrocities – and yet, his cover never faltered. How far does public pretense go, and when is it just plain cheating yourself? At one point he mentions his schizophrenia – but is this not just another cover, just another lie? It’s a bit like walking in quicksand with Howard Campbell jr – you don’t exactly know what’s safe and where you’ll sink into some sort of morality abyss. And Vonnegut’s half ironic, half dead serious language doesn’t help clarify things either…but you gotta love him for that 😉