I recently was at the launching of a book from one of my favourite authors: Eric-Emanuel Schmitt. The book that was being presented was “The alternative hypothesis” (In Romania appeared under the name Adolf H. Two lives). Although it was written much earlier, it was only launched in Bucharest this year.
Now about the book, it was published in Bucharest at Humanitas Fiction publishing house in November 2017, having 460 pages. As I said before, it was only launched in Bucharest this year, on the 31st of January. What caught my attention just at the beginning, besides the extraordinary style of Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, was the specific of the story. It talks about the faith of the world if Adolf Hitler would have entered the art school as he would have wanted. There were precisely those very few moments when he got his rejection that defined the political map of the world as we see it today.
The book presents a parallel between the two different guys. On one side there is this bohemian art student, calm, gentle and kind and on the other side there is the frustrated, furious lad that was rejected and tried to make a carrier into an alternative to art. The two characters are presented with different names. Adolf Hitler is the one who everybody knows, and the art student is called Adolf H. Even in the name we can feel a tone difference. Adolf H. makes you think of him as a friend, as a person to whom you can talk to, meanwhile the other one has a heavy name, which inspires fear and obedience.
The author presents a serious novel, overwhelming and restless, somehow philosophical in my opinion, as it makes you keep asking “What if?”. What if he wouldn’t have been a fuhrer? Who would have been? Would WW2 eventually have started? So many questions and so little answers.
The author itself confesses on how hard it was for him to write this novel, to bring to life such a horrid character, and expresses his anxiety, doubts and horror on remembering and writing down all those awful facts that the real Hitler committed. Today, this is considered to be one of the best novels of E.E.S.
What is even more interesting in this novel, is the fact that the author dedicated it to the one who tried to murder Hitler. Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt explained this through the fact that, despite the fact that a crime is still a crime, the man was the first that understood that Hitler would bring this world to an end.
In this book, the author shows us step by step a biography in a mirror with the real autobiography of Hitler.
At first, the book seems like a trap, because it shows us that he could have been some other person and that anyone from us can be a Hitler. The purpose of the mirror biography is to show us that nobody is born a monster, and that our road in life depends on assuming our own life. This way, Adolf H. manages to understand that he is not to blame for the death of his parents, meanwhile the real Hitler did not assume the complications of his childhood and finds invincibility on the front.
The novel has some objectives that wants to present to the reader.
The first objective is an ethical one, and it shows that anybody could be the other one. The second one is social-historical and shows us how can a nobody as it was Hitler become the leader of Germany.
In the book it is presented the secret of Hitler: an introvert which suddenly becomes a great orator. The novel has many meanings, from seeing the monster in us and how can be killed till an understanding of the facts beyond what we can observe. A man is made up of choices and circumstances. We cannot choose circumstances but we can make choices.
What we can appreciate at Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt is the fact that he doesn’t become a judge when he writes a book, he doesn’t fall into this trap. He wrote a very strong novel, complex, easy to understand. Although the novel gravitates around one of the most abominable figure in modern history, it does not fall into the trap of excess and anathema.
The reader can easily be trapped into reading this book. I also was trapped, I started reading it and I barely left it down in order to listen to the critics.
At the end, I would like to ask each one of you to find the truth in yourself: “Am I a monster?”. Maybe if we will reflect carefully to this question we will manage to change the world. Will you?