Back to novels. It's been awhile, to say the least. >_<Greene, Harlan. The German Officer's Boy. Madison: Terrace Books, 2005. Summary
: Based on true events. In November of 1938, Polish Jew Herschel Grynszpan, desperate to save his family, enters the German embassy in Paris and mistakenly fires on his clandestine lover, the minor Nazi official Ernst vom Rath. The man's death at the hands of a Jew becomes rich grist for the propaganda mill and becomes a proximate cause for the genocide of the Holocaust. Comments
: Star-crossed romance between a Jewish boy and a Nazi over a decade older on the eve of World War II. In the hands of another writer, this sort of plot could easily descend into the realm of Beyond Bad Taste, but Harlan Greene, the gay son of parents who survived the Holocaust who himself survived the AIDS pandemic that wiped out so many of his peers, manages no worse than drippy melodrama. Fortunately, the characters of Herschel and Ernst themselves are more believable than their idyllic relationship (Who believes in love at first sight, anyway?), and their twin struggles as closeted gay men is far more immediate and poignant than the grim historical realities of that tumultuous time period. Otherwise, everything and everyone else seemed prototypical--even stereotypical--and do not particularly challenge the assumptions of the reader. Ironically, both the Jews and the Nazis agreed on one thing--the homosexuals amongst them were repulsive.
Greene's writing has matured considerably since the early 90's, and, though this novel bounces between matters of historical record, fictionalized interpolation, and multiple points of view in decidedly unpredictable, unorganized intervals, the narrative does not lag as it did in his earlier What the Dead Remember
. Moreover, and far more importantly, the author's project is clear-sighted and well thought-out ahead of time. He does not, as other authors do, merely equate the Holocaust to the AIDS epidemic in some nebulous way; instead, he shows how inextricably prejudice against both Jews and homosexuals were during that period and how tragedy for one group was tragedy for the other. While imprisoned in a concentration camp, Herschel sees two lifelong lovers that had once inspired him to the possibility of true love transformed into living skeletons--if hatred knows no boundaries, then tolerance must be equally magnanimous. Otherwise, we're all hurt in the end. Notes
: hardcover, 1st edition, 1st printing Rating
- An important bit of recent history remade into a homoerotic melodrama. Admirable in its attempt...but there's probably a bit of wishful thinking involved.