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Mike reviews: Gavriel D Rosenfeld's The World Hitler Never Made

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  • Mike reviews: Gavriel D Rosenfeld's The World Hitler Never Made

    Here's a review which appeared recently in the Daily Telegraph --

    If Hitler had won World War Two…
    Michael Moorcock
    (Filed: 11/07/2005)


    Michael Moorcock reviews The World Hitler Never Made by Gavriel D Rosenfeld.


    The nightmare for my generation was waking one morning to a world in which Hitler had won the war. Our fears were expressed in a flood of counterfactual stories - what Professor Gavriel Rosenfeld, in a new book on those fictions, calls "allohistories" (from the Greek "allo" for "altered" or "other"). These included Sarban's terrifying The Sound of His Horn, which imagined a future where Nazi overlords hunt untermenschen for sport, and Philip K Dick's The Man in the High Castle, where America is carved up between vicious Nazis in the east and stern Japanese in the west.



    In 1964 Hilary Bailey's examination of Nazi metaphysics, The Fall of Frenchy Steiner, had a virgin bride being sought for a senile Fأ¼hrer. Bestselling mysteries by Len Deighton and Robert Harris, SS-GB and Fatherland respectively, in which Nazi victory is long established when the story opens, and films such as Brownlow's chilling It Happened Here, imagined a British response to occupation no more or less heroic than that of other conquered nations.

    While Saki had foreseen posh Britons accommodating German rule in his predictive novel When William Came, published on the eve of the First World War (in which he was killed), writers predicting Nazi conquest - Katherine Burdekin's Swastika Night, Vita Sackville-West's Grand Canyon, HV Morton's I, James Blunt - warned how appeasement would actually deliver us to Hitler.

    In 1947, Noأ«l Coward's play Peace in Our Time showed Britain occupied by victorious Nazis, confirming the anti-appeasement message, but later politicians and journalists in America, including Pat Buchanan and Newt Gingrich, revived isolationist positions, arguing that Allied military engagement against Hitler was a mistake. American television programmes, comics, movies and books were chiefly interested in wartime strategic issues or Hitler's reincarnation as a monster, and tended to ignore questions regarding Nazi psychopathology and Jewish genocide.

    Only a few books, such as Walter Shirer's If Hitler Had Won World War Two and Daniel Quin's After Dachau, confronted the Holocaust. The political "futurist" Norman Spinrad's The Iron Dream revealed heroic fantasy's fascistic elements by depicting Hitler as a genial, geeky immigrant to the US whose pulp novels, including Lord of the Swastika, disturbingly echo the actuality of our familiar world. Spinrad's book was banned in Germany for a decade.

    For obvious reasons, few alternative histories came from formerly occupied countries. Indeed, only Germany produced substantial Nazi allohistories. Thomas Ziegler's Die Stimmen der Nacht and Christoph Ransmayr's Morbus Kitahara, Rosenfeld tells us, blame Germany's failure to repent for the Holocaust on "a clumsy Allied programme of compulsory contrition".

    A well-established commercial genre, including role-playing games, nowadays concentrates on nostalgic reruns of the Second World War, sometimes adding dragons and warlocks to the mix. Futuristic science fiction once satisfied this genre's audience by offering worlds in which the Bomb had reduced everything to an easily handled libertarian simplicity, but JG Ballard turned that escapist fantasy on its head in books such as The Drowned World.

    So far no sci-fi work has done the same with allohistory. Even Philip Roth's recent novel The Plot Against America, where popular ex-flyer President Lindbergh keeps the US out of the war, largely dodges an issue better confronted by Kurt Vonnegut's masterpiece, Mother Night, or Michael Chabon's Kavalier and Clay, both retrospective narratives focusing on actual rather than alternative Nazi history. In fact, no matter how satirical or clever (Stephen Fry's Making History; Martin Amis's Time's Arrow), the allohistory has proven a rather disappointing form.

    Only one alternate history series confronted Nazism with appropriate originality and passion. Published by the independent Manchester firm Savoy, David Britton's surreal Lord Horror and its sequels entered the mind of a deranged surviving Hitler whose visions grew increasingly insane. Britton's graphic novel Hard Core Horror turned William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) into Lord Horror, while James Joyce became his brother, and his rival for the hand of singer Jessie Matthews.

    Britton's narrative moved inevitably towards Auschwitz. The novel's final issue, with its deliberately blank narrative panels among pictures of the concentration camp (followed by actual photographs of victims), was a silent memorial to the murdered, an indictment of our own moral complicity. Soon after they appeared, Hard Core Horror and Lord Horror were seized by Manchester's vice squad. The books were destroyed and their author went to Strangeways, suggesting that successful Nazi alternate histories must take profound psychological, moral and physical risks.

    To retain any moral authority, Hitlerian allohistories have to confront Nazi psychopathology. Some of the stories described here reflect Holocaust survival guilt. Where they do not, as in the case of one "pacifist" apologist for appeasement, they reveal a form of Holocaust denial. At the end of his substantial study, even Rosenfeld admits that most of the material he examined avoids considerably more than it confronts.

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses


  • #2
    Thanks for those Mike, it's nice to keep up with the review stuff you've been writing. I received the White Savage review from Google alerts and was going to post it here but you beat me to it. I hadn't seen the Hitler one.
    'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

    Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

    Comment


    • #3
      Cheers, pard. Review of Eagleton's Holy Terror coming up in The Telegraph soon. Will probably give reviewing a rest for a while, until Vengeance proofs are read and some more of the Peake Sunday Book text is written.

      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
      The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
      Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
      The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
      Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

      Comment


      • #4
        When/where do you find the time?

        Must be that Eternal Champion literary sweatshop at work again,
        and I thought you'd put all the old boys out to pasture!
        "A man is no man who cannot have a fried mackerel when he has set his mind on it; and more especially when he has money in his pocket to pay for it." - E.A. Poe's NICHOLAS DUNKS; OR, FRIED MACKEREL FOR DINNER

        Comment


        • #6
          More like a Busman's Holiday, but no complaints here :up:
          "A man is no man who cannot have a fried mackerel when he has set his mind on it; and more especially when he has money in his pocket to pay for it." - E.A. Poe's NICHOLAS DUNKS; OR, FRIED MACKEREL FOR DINNER

          Comment


          • #7
            Originally posted by Talisant
            When/where do you find the time?
            I often wonder myself. Having said that, I have two Poe volumes, one of fiction and another of essays and reviews, and both weigh in at around 1500 pages each. And Poe was dead at 40!
            'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

            Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

            Comment


            • #8
              No wonder. Must have been from overwork! :) Actually, many 19th century writers easily equalled my output and look how much Balzac produced and how young he was when he died. Then there's Edgar Wallace, of course.

              Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
              The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
              Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


              Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
              The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
              Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

              Comment


              • #9
                Fatherland

                Just interested to know why you didn't include 'Fatherland' in your analysis - was it perhaps because it was more character driven with the consequences of Nazi victory in the background? Or, did you find the assumptions it made about the way things would have worked out a little too formulaic considering their place as the setting and not the main focus?

                Comment

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