Monday, March 21, 2005


Found this in a junk shop in Salisbury for 40p the other day:

The SS insignia is embossed, fer Christsake.

Loads of lumpen, badly translated prose here and gallows-black humour. Sven's get-outa-jail card is that the protagonists are surly conscripts in a penal regiment who hate Nazi Party members and spit whenever they say dear ol' Uncle Adolph's name. Five pages in and one of the main characters 'endears' himself to the readers by splitting open the skull of a swastika armband-wearing goon with a pickaxe. Still, despite Sven's blatant attempts to sympathetically position his cast as just a bunch of ordinary thieving blackmarketeers and refuseniks with hearts of gold, there's tastless moments aplenty as our heroes execute Russian POWs, kill their Nazi scumbag commanding officers and go on a drunken sexual rampage in a brothel.

Most shocking moment in the book though, is the Allied Dresden-style firebombing that leaves thousands of German citizens dead. The realisation that British bombers are deliberately dropping incendiaries and phosphorous bombs on innocent German women and children savagely short-circuits decades of Hollywood (and Ealing Films)-induced neural-programming, and previously-unchallenged concensual notions of 'Fair Play', 'Britishness', etc suddenly fall away. It's giddily disorientating to encounter something that recasts us as the villains (and isn't a Mel Gibson film).

Also surprising to me was the fact that Sven Hassel's books were still in print (this edition was 2003)...I mean, it's not as if they exactly promote them in Ottakars or Waterstones, is it? (Or have I been spending too much time in the Crime and Media sections?) They're hardly Middlemass Coffee Table Booker Prize Material either. Obviously, Hassel's books are still out there (so to speak, in all their 'SS'-embossed gory glory) and available to the disconcerning connoisseur, but you've got to look a heckuva lot harder for stuff like this these days. We don't actually ban books and films in this country any more because, well, that's not cricket, is it? Instead, we just ignore them...

The Rewrite Department has arrived in the form of PC culture: we don't want to offend anyone; Fascism's a pretty unpleasant subject so let's not talk about it at all, eh? Except on media-sanctioned anniversaries of The Holocaust. We certainly wouldn't want anyone getting upset and pointing out the irony that the Zionist fucks currently running Israel have, in fact, built the biggest concentration camp in the world...

I can say that, of course, because I'm 1/64th Jewish.

WW2 novels (and Westerns) were part of the cultural landscape when I was a kid growing up in the Sixties...the war had only ended twenty years earlier, so I would've thought that people were likely to be a lot more offended by books with a swastika on the cover than they are now. Some people might say that War novels (like Westerns) are just no longer fashionable...there's no conspiracy; I'm being paranoid (as usual). Besides, it's been scientifically proven that books with swastikas on the cover provide ammunition to Nazi Apologists and/or encourage people to become crypto-fascists or lurking solitary gunman/survivalist loner stalker types. But worse: these books are now officially "off-message" and needlessly distract us from the War on Terrorism.

Still, I just can't help myself: I'm a nostalgic old fool...I really miss War books, and Westerns, and Jungle Adventures...(though they portray foreign cultures in a negative light so I'm not allowed to like them either. Damn. I'll have to bin those Italian Cannibal films, then...)

But anyway, let's not pick over the scabs of WW2 because soon, everyone that participated in The Big One will be dead so we can spin History in whatever direction we like without any fear of contradiction. Unless, of course, you've been preserved in ice for 50 years...

I recently saw a reprint of an old Captain America comic where the Red Skull's swastika had been digitally erased.

"Hey, Dad, what's that funny symbol on the Red Skull's tunic...?"

"Funny symbol on the Red Skull's tunic...? You're imagining things, son."

"Dad, what's a Nazi?"

"A Nazi? Blowed if I know, son. There's no such word."


Is Walter Matthau actually dead, or did I dream it?