Fatherland

Fatherland

A Novel

Book - 1992
Average Rating:
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Publisher: New York, NY : Random House, 1992.
Edition: 1st ed.
Branch Call Number: +F
Characteristics: 336 pages

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bwrogers
Dec 14, 2017

Woah, alternative history that doesn't read like a sloppily-plotted fanfic? I know, I could barely believe it either! Harris's meticulously researched and believable detective story takes a basic premise and smartly doesn't dwell on it. Instead, he takes the idea of the "Good German" and tries it out as a narrative thought experiment instead of a literary device. In many places an homage to the classics of the genre, the protagonist is a Teutonic version of the wisecracking gumshoe in Chandler's mold. With the requisite number of twists and turns, the story follows our hero to the edges of his moral universe and beyond. There's a reason why detective fiction can be so transgressive: it often asks the hero to stare into his society's darkest corners and shed light on them. And if that society happens to be a post-WWII Nazi Germany? All the deeper the darkness and bright the light.

Best paired with Chabon's "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," which I can't help but assume was written as a response to Harris's novel.

t
tjdickey
May 03, 2017

Usually to create a dystopian future, the author must use a lot of energy to give us context and detail - Harris has the terrifying reality of Nazism, the Final Solution, and Stalinist Russia already in our consciousness, so our fear as readers is immediate, powerful, and well-founded. What if in 1964, Joseph Kennedy's anti-Semitic United States and Nazi Germany are the twin victors of WW2, locked in a nuclear cold war...? Berlin is a frightening capital city of the world; Germany is mired in an asymmetrical war deep in Asia; and no one really knows what happened to so many European Jews...

d
djmansfield
Mar 31, 2013

Mostly an average story, but I'll give it a 3rd star because Harris created good dialog among the characters.

The big mystery for the protagonist is his nailing down the truth about the real world death camps of WWII in this tale about the state of the fictional world of the early 1960s, with Hitler still in power.

I would've been more interested in the story if it was more strategic (how are the world powers getting along in a world that includes Nazis in national power?) and less the tactical dealings of a beat cop (yet Gestapo) trying to break a mystery.

SqueeGirl Sep 26, 2009

The 1994 HBO movie based on this novel stars Rutger Hauer and Miranda Richardson and was directed by Christopher Menaul.

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SqueeGirl Sep 26, 2009

In a 1964 Nazi Berlin a copy investigates a suicide and uncovers the 20 year old secret of what happened to the Jews

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