At last this book is over. That might sound unfair but it has felt like being taught history by someone determined to make you feel sick. Mailer really knows how to get your attention but you do come to the end of this book with the view that it could have been written without some of the sexual and bodily functional detail.
When this book came out everyone focused on the Hitler story, which is the main crux of the book apart from an odd diversion into Russia, but in my recollection, certainly of radio interviews with Mailer no one asked him why he obsessed with erections, masturbation, faeces, homosexuality and incest. No doubt those questions were not hinted at on the press release plus most interviewers had probably not read the book.
If they had they would have come to the end and sat back and agreed that if a demon had been involved with hand picking and helping Adolf Hitler grow up to become the dictator and Jew killing monster of the 1930s and 1940s then this is how it might have read as a memoir. But at the same time Hitler is just one of a cast of odd dark characters that implies if anything that it was almost impossible to come through a youthful existence in Austria in the 1890s without being severely damaged.
With death all around, parents that struggled and failed to break the bounds of a class system it is no wonder that Hitler grew up full of resentment and hatred.
The final section of the book covers the breakdown of the relationship between Adolf and his father and the latter’s death leaving the family reasonably well off but Hitler in power. He is an academic failure, a drifter who has a strong belief in his own ability and is left by Mailer in a position where all the tendency’s are there to make him a Nazi but there is a lot still left to do to get him there.
A difficult book to read because it was far from enjoyable. Mailer must have wanted to evoke a response of disgust and he manages to do that several time. While that might tie in with the theme of the devil and the darkness it hardly makes it an enjoyable experience.
A review will follow soon…