The Father of a Murderer

Alfred Andersch, Author, Leila Vennewitz, Translator New Directions Publishing Corporation $21.95 (95p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1261-8
The murderer of this novella's title is Nazi butcher Heinrich Himmler, the Gestapo chief who engineered the deaths of millions in WW II concentration camps. His father, identified only as ``old Himmler,'' was headmaster at the Munich school from which Andersch, an eighth-grader in 1928, was expelled after flunking Greek. (Years later, Andersch was sent to Dachau for his activities as a Communist youth leader; afterward, he became a newspaper editor and founder of Group 47, whose members included Heinrich Boll and Gunter Grass.) This fictionalized autobiographical reminiscence takes place over the course of a single Greek lesson, conducted sadistically by the authoritarian elder Himmler, who inspects and takes over the class where schoolboy Franz Kien, Andersch's alter-ego, cringes. Old Himmler is a classicist and a member of the Bavarian People's Party; he scorns his infamous son's Nazi politics, by this account. Illuminating the cultural soil in which Nazism took root and flourished, the deftly translated narrative is most telling in its flashbacks to family scenes, as when Franz's anti-Semitic father, a broken WW I veteran who attends pro-fascist rallies and meetings with the junior Himmler, calls the latter ``a splendid young man'' but warns Franz to beware the ``careerist'' elder Himmler. Andersch died in 1979; the novel was published posthumously in Germany in 1980. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/04/1994
Release date: 04/01/1994
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 112 pages - 978-0-8112-1762-0
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