« THE BAD CANON – MEIN KAMPF
Recently I embarked on a mission to read and review the most terrible works of literature ever written. When I say “terrible,” I’m referring to the ideas inside the books, not necessarily the quality of writing. Most people don’t read these books because they are stuffed with racism, bigotry, sexism, or some particularly horrid combination of the three. Aside from historians and the like, the people who do end up reading these books are usually impressionable half-wits who stumble upon them in the library and wind up with a new and unpleasant viewpoint on black people and Jews and stuff. I wouldn’t consider myself a historian or a half-wit. I’m just a small Jewish girl from Philadelphia who wants to read a bunch of fucked up books and write about them. I’m going to start with a classic work of malignant hatred, Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
Obtaining Mein Kampf was not particularly easy. Bookstore copies are expensive, and at first I wondered to whom the money would go. As it turns out, during World War II the US seized the book under the Trading With The Enemy Act, a thing we like to do during wartime that would be more aptly titled the Stealing From The Enemy Act. After trying to find an affordable copy at multiple bookstores, I opted to download it from Barnes & Noble.
My copy features an incredible introduction by the original translator, who finished it in 1939. The letter is poised perfectly in history so that pretty much anything the translator wrote about Hitler was going to seem imprudent and ridiculous later, and it certainly does. Although he wasn’t yet a genocidal maniac, he was already an asshole, and the translator seems to be sort of an apologist. He had the following to say on what are Hitler’s occasional harsh judgments upon the French:
“If we bear all this in mind we can account for the emotional stress under which Mein Kampf was written. Hitler was naturally incensed against the Bavarian government authorities, against the footlong patriotic societies who were pawns in the French game, though often unconsciously so, and of course against the French. That he should write harshly of the French was only natural in the circumstances.”
In other words, the translator apologizes for Hitler’s nasty comments about the French, writing it off as “emotional distress.” As an addendum to his note, the translation includes excerpts from Mein Kampf, which consist almost entirely of vile comments about the Jews. It’s like Hitler’s Hateful Highlights for the Busy Bigot. This addition renders the aforementioned apology sort of pointless. It’s like shooting up a playground and leaving a note that says “sorry about getting blood on the swing set.”
In addition to his insightful views into Hitler’s psyche, the translator has a few words to say about the length of Mein Kampf. After a description of the economic situation in Europe at the time of the writing of the first volume, the translator petitions Hitler to satisfy his adoring fans: “But, as those things belong to the limbo of a dead past that nobody wishes to have remembered now, it is often asked: Why doesn’t Hitler revise Mein Kampf?” Yes, translator, a revision would be most excellent! How about a new chapter about those damn, thieving Gypsies?
The first half of Mein Kampf follows this arc: Hitler didn’t like his dad. Hitler didn’t do well in school. Hitler didn’t get into art school. Hitler struggled. Hitler realized he could speak in front of a roomful of people and they would listen for long periods of time. Hitler is present for the formation of the Nazi party.
Everyone knows that Hitler was rejected from art school. He writes about it with some candor, though he was clearly in denial about his middling abilities as an artist. He hems, haws, and equivocates, claiming that he was rejected for being more of a drawer than a painter. He also notes early on that, “By far my best subjects were geography and, even more so, general history. These were my best subjects and I lead the class in them.” Considering how he proceeded to treat borders and “interpret” Germany’s past, Hitler doesn’t seem to have much reverence for his “best” subjects.
Hitler’s publisher, Max Amann
Not surprisingly, Hitler waffles between moments of lucidity and moments of less-than-lucidity. At one point, he muses on Nature (with a capital N). Nature, he claims, abhors species mixing. Hitler sees this as self evident because 1.) hybrids rarely happen on their own, and, 2.) nothing good comes of it when it does. In short, fuck grapefruit.
Hitler writes, “Each animal mates only with one of its own species. The titmouse cohabits only with the titmouse, the finch with the finch, the stork with the stork, the field-mouse with the field-mouse, the house-mouse with the house-mouse, the wolf with the she-wolf, etc.” The observant reader can probably guess that he extends this argument to its Hitlogical conclusion. That is, that “races” are the same thing as “species,” and nature abhors mixing there, too. What really interests me, though, is the uninspired menagerie Hitler picked to illustrate his point.
With literally every animal on the planet to choose from–every single one–Hitler picks the fucking titmouse‚ stork‚ field-mouse, and house-mouse. I get finch. Hitler clearly gave Darwin a cursory read and extrapolated liberally. But titmouse and house-mouse? He could have mentioned lions, or bears, or koalas, or platypi, or parrots, or any animal that exists or has ever existed on Planet Earth, and he picked titmouse. Then he follows the titmouse with the field-mouse and house-mouse. Hey, Herr Hitler: it’s called zoology. How about picking some animals that don’t suck?
Also up for discussion–his choice of the word “cohabits.” Hitler perpetrated the gravest crimes against humanity of the 20th century, but he was squeamish about animals fucking? He had to use a euphemism? Like a boy titmouse and a girl titmouse were just sharing a hole in a tree and then one day one of them tripped and fell and maybe their cloacas touched for just a second, resulting in a clutch of baby titmice? A lot of folks are uncomfortable with people boning, but most seem fine with animals fucking. Not Hitler. Out of this talk on nature, he reaches the following conclusion: “Here we meet the insolent objection, which is Jewish in its inspiration and is typical of the modern pacifist. It says: ‘Man can control even Nature.’”
Sorry, Hitler, your pervasive racism is upsetting, but this is just absurd. No group of people with so many instances of hay fever would think they can control nature (let alone “Nature”).
Part one of Mein Kampf concludes with a description of the Nazi party’s origins. Hitler, already on the fringe of society, discovers that all of his alleged drawing abilities are actually public speaking abilities and suddenly everyone wants to get in a big room and listen to him babble. Maybe he mistakenly assumed the same was true for his writing, which would explain why Mein Kampf is 500 pages long.
As part one draws to a close, Hitler describes the reasoning behind the naming of the Nazi party: “The first term, Party, kept away all those dreamers who live in the past and all lovers of bombastic nomenclature, as well as those who went around beating the big drum for the völkisch idea. The full name [National Socialist German Labor] of the Party kept away all those heroes whose weapon is the sword of the spirit and all those whining poltroons who take refuge behind their so-called ‘intelligence’ as if it were a kind of shield.”
A party with no heroes or intelligent people? Sounds like a bunch of Nazis. »
Read the rest at Vice Magazine: THE BAD CANON – MEIN KAMPF – Viceland Today