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Germany asks: is it OK to laugh at Hitler?

If Hitler were alive today, would he become a standup comic? Incredible though that may sound to anyone who lived through the second world war, that is the scenario sketched out in Look Who's Back, a satirical novel by Timur Vermes, which topped the bestseller lists in Germany after its publication in 2012 and is now about to be published in English.

In the opening pages, Hitler wakes up on a building site in Berlin in 2011. His memory of how he got there is hazy: "I think Eva and I chatted for a while, and I showed her my old pistol, but when I awoke I was unable to recall any further detail."...

Partly thanks to a massive marketing campaign involving popular comedian Christoph Maria Herbst, Look Who's Back (Er ist wieder da), with its cover depicting Hitler's block-like side-parted hair and toothbrush moustache, has sold more than 1.4m copies in print and audiobook in Germany. No mean feat, considering the hardback sold – in a knowing historical reference to the year the Nazi party leader came to power – for a hefty €19.33.

Critics, though, have been underwhelmed. Some argued the novel "trivialised" the dictator's crimes by making the reader laugh not at, but also with him. Others felt the satire just didn't bite enough: "A mediocre joke that suddenly got successful," as author and critic Daniel Erk put it....

Read entire article at The Guardian