book-reviews

Look Who's Back

by Timur Vermes (tr. Jamie Bulloch)

Rating: ★★★★

He's Fuhrious. But of course he isn't. He's confused, as you might be if you were plucked from your bunker and shot sixty-six years into the future, where everyone thinks you're a comedian imitating yourself. Television has come a long way in the interim, although it seems to be being wasted on TV chefs, advertisements and endless narration for the senile. But someone wants to give him a slot, and he knows how to write a speech that will get attention.

Despite occasionally relying a little on rather stretched humorous misunderstandings Look Who's Back does a good job of delivering its pseudo-serious message. It's only funny because it is precisely him stumbling back to power. If it was someone else, someone new, then this would just be a stern warning. Against a backdrop of polarisation and anti-establishment votes across the EU, such a warning might be all too topical.

There's a loop of self-reference inherent in the book. The central figure is mistaken for a satirist, and as such can say things which would otherwise be prohibited, the assumption being that humour alters what people hear. But increasingly, the political core grabs people's attention, and they start to take him seriously. With that in mind, note that the book itself is subtitled 'A merciless satire'.

While the various references to his earlier life feel, like some of the misunderstandings, a little forced, the situational comedy and tone of the book keep it bubbling along at an acceptable mixture of funny and thought-provoking, appropriate for a wide audience. Not overwhelming in any particular degree, but a well-balanced and entertaining read.