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What I am reading

this is the highly subjective way I read and interpret literature

(the emphasis lies on literature, so you'll only find a couply of trashy readings here and there)

Currently reading

What I Loved
Siri Hustvedt
Progress: 84/367 pages
A Modern Utopia
Francis Wheen, Gregory Claeys, H.G. Wells
Fifty Egg Timer Short Stories
Richard Bunning

Hermann, schieß dem Fenster!

Swastika Night - Katharine Burdekin, Daphne Patai

You really have to bear in mind that the date of origin is 1937 and for that, I am pleasantly surprised that it is not more preachy or propaganda-ish. Of course, there is a lot of inner-European nationalism and racism in the text (to be fair, if there was any time to be a racist nationalist, the 1930’s would have been it), of course, the protagonist is a smart Englishman and of course, the English will probably save the world from the homosexual Nazis – at least according to Burdekins novel.


I understand, why there is a lot of fuss about Swastika Night in feminist circles, but I would not claim the degenerated status of women to be the main focus of the text. As far as I am concerned, Burdekin’s novel deals mainly with the deliberate erasure of history and the consequent making up of your own stories by the people = men in power (yes, mayor 1984 flashback and although there is no being sure about it, it is very likely that Orwell borrowed heavily from Swastika Night). I am actually really sorry that only the feminist aspect stuck with it and Orwell snatched away the whole meddling with history discourse, because Burdekin not only brought this issue up 12 years prior to him, but she executed it in a much more elaborate way as well.


Oddly enough, I felt some very homophobic tendencies despite the central bromance between Alfred and Hermann. She highly propagates the Christian family model consisting explicitly of father, mother and children and once she even states that "normal" equals "not homosexual", but I guess it was the 1930’s after all.


Now about the whole language thing… well, her efforts of mixing in some German here and there are quite cute in the beginning, Burdekin obviously took pride in this, but soon it just made me cringe and I wished she would have abandoned the idea completely. We are talking the Die Hard German level of a Hans Gruber – no wonder, Karl didn’t have a clue what to do, after Hans yelled „Karl, schieß dem Fenster!“ at him.
But despite using some incorrect German, ignoring the existence of every single Umlaut and treating the article of der Führer as if it would be part of the name and needn’t to be grammatically altered (I get it, it is a tough language to learn, mistakes happen and I am still glad, people make the effort), her use of language in this setting is simply confusing. It was hardly ever clear to me, in what language the characters were conversing with each other (not that it matters much, but it felt very forced and strange sometimes), for example, in one of the earlier chapters, the Knight von Hess, Alfred and Hermann have a conversation about history and real life Hitler, so von Hess explicitly states in the beginning that he will speak English: "I think," he said, "that I will speak in English. […] I want to make absolutely certain that Alfred understands everything I have to tell." And just four pages later this happens: "it is certain, that he never married, but whether he had intercourse with women in a sexual sense or not, we do not know." "Married?" said Alfred. "I’m sorry, sir, that’s a German word I don’t know."
I might be picky here, but did I miss them switching the language somewhere along the way? Did Burdekin foresee the infamous Denglisch? The whole book was like watching Inglorious Basterds in translation, without all the linguistic nuances that make up the best part of the movie. Now, I know, she could never have written her novel in German, but it would have made so much more sense to just come up with any excuse to let her characters speak English! And why did she herself bring up this whole issue in the first place?


Overall, the book could have done without the Christian propaganda towards the end also, the democracy bashing really came as a surprise. But despite that, Swastika Night is a solid dystopian novel, unjustly reduced to its feminist content.