Among the books that ignited interest for 'a future that never was' this novel is probably the most significant.
, written by Robert Harris, appeared in 1992 in the midst of political debate around European integration and German re-unification. Part of this debate (first and foremost, the fear of German-dominated Europe) helped to sell over 3 million copies. From the point of pure literature, the book is far from perfect, to put it mildly.
Its TV adaptation (1996, starring Rutger Hauer) is mediocre. And the concept of 'Germany Victorious' has become a commonplace today. Besides, it was not new 17 years ago: A Man in the High Castle, The Ultimate Solution, The Sound of His Horn
, and the legendary It Happened Here
(not to mention some less-known titles) appeared long before Harris' novel. So why do I speak of Fatherland
Leave alone the plot. If you haven't read or seen it, there's a Wiki article
packed with useful info. But Fatherland
, popular as it was, made a lot of people think of the world that could be
. Not only about the Gestapo doing its dirty job for decades. Not only about the Royal family living in Canadian exile. Not only about the 1964 Europe unified under the Swastika.
For me, the most stunning episode in the book is the TV appearance of President Kennedy. Joseph P. Kennedy
. For many others, the picture of new Berlin, Welthaupstadt Germania, is even more stunning:
No matter that it was impossible to build the People's Hall as designed. Who cares? It is so impressive... No matter that technology in the book is very much alike the real 1964 technology. A little imagination - and we start to think of secret German designs, all kinds of Wuderwaffe:
And looking at this flying wing (by Marek Rys) - or a Daimler Benz flying carrier (by Martin Letts, below; both borrowed from the Luft46
), we realize that the German civil
technology must be very different from the global, US-dominated one.
We think about some personalities we know and the roles they could take in the alternate past. Dissatisfied by the Harris' scheme, we draw our own - probably without
victorious Germany, without
Hitler celebrating his 75th birthday, maybe even without WW2
at all! We go back for the canceled projects trying desperately to revive them. We throw away the politics and take the opportunities that were lost 50, 60, 70 years ago. We try to build our own alternate past - much better than real, much brighter than Fatherland
But who are "we'? Probably, one percent of the readers. Quite a lot. And also those who are not into alternate history but are crazy about the old tech; or artists who look into the past for inspiration. B&W movies freaks; etc, etc. In short, all those who belong to Dieselpunk. So let me admit that Fatherland
has made an indirect but very important contribution to the genre.