Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Adolf Hitler, bookworm

I’ve always been kind of a bookworm. When I have free time when I’m off duty, as often as not I have my nose buried in a book. I know many of the people at the Sandusky Library by sight.

So it’s a little disappointing to learn that Adolf Hitler was kind of that way, too. The New York Times has an interesting review of the new book “Hitler’s Private Library” by Timothy Ryback.

At the end of a long day of work, Adolf liked nothing better than to kick back with a “steaming pot of tea” and a book in his study. A photograph from the book shows him posed in front of a bookshelf in his apartment. The only personal possessions Russian soldiers found in his Berlin bunker at world’s end were dozens of books.

I suppose the book proves what we already know — that what's scary about the world's monsters is the way they seem just like the rest of us.

Jo Walton's excellent novel, "Ha'Penny," about an alternate world in which Britain makes a separate peace with Germany, includes a scene that depicts Hitler as charming. Last November on her blog, Walton answered questions from readers about her "Small Change" books, including "Ha'Penny," and I remarked about the portrayal of Hitler.

Walton replied, "Hitler really did have attractive qualities. The way I describe him is based on how many British and American people writing about meeting him in the thirties described him. If he'd been a visible monster radiating evil, people wouldn't have followed him in the first place. You read Diana Mosley's letters and she says things like 'Poor dear Hitler.' And you read that and the cognitive dissonance is quite astounding, because the way history has painted him after the fact you can't quite imagine that anyone could ever have spoken about him in that tone of voice. Yet if you let him be a monster, and uniquely evil and all that, it makes it much safer, because you'd recognise a monster, wouldn't you, you couldn't be taken in by one? Part of what I was doing with these books was showing where the monster is in us."

Addendum: Off topic, but topical, Jo Walton remembers Donald Westlake. (Via Supergee).

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