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The outrage was from the Germans
April 2, 2012 12:41 PM   Subscribe

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of his first novel, Fatherland, writer Robert Harris spoke to John Mullan at The Guardian Book Club (Highlights, The interview in full (autoplay))

Week one: speculative fiction
The film adaptation is on youtube... here's part 1
posted by fearfulsymmetry (20 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Muchly apperciated.

I bought my first copy of that novel from a convenience store when I was 11. I'd scrounged change that I found from the couches of various family members. My father was rather intrigued that I was reading a novel, but didn't know the subject of the book. I hid the plot from him as I was reading perhaps too many books with a similar theme.
posted by banal evil at 1:36 PM on April 2, 2012


I really love that novel, it's a brilliant pastiche of hard-boiled and alternate history. His other books are pretty good, too.
posted by thelonius at 1:45 PM on April 2, 2012


Add me to the list of Fatherland fans! I also like Harris's novels set in ancient Rome.

Some other books Fatherland fans might enjoy are Len Deighton's SS-GB and Jo Walton's "Small Change" trilogy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:47 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also the Phillip Kerr "Berlin Noir" novels and their post-war sequels
posted by thelonius at 1:51 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I read this in college - a friend loaned it to me. It wasn't bad. It was a potboiler, not literature, but it was quite readable.
posted by orange swan at 2:42 PM on April 2, 2012


The HBO adaptation linked above seems awful at first glance. It managed to completely ruin two major revelations in the book in the first five minutes! Granted, they're not hard to figure out on your own, but why bother when they're presented to you on a platter at the very beginning?
posted by chrominance at 2:47 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fatherland is one of those "Oh, I've always meant to try that" books for me, mainly because I feel like I see it everywhere. It certainly sounds pretty interesting, though I'm generally not a fan of alternate history. Are there other Harris books I'd be better served by, though?
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:25 PM on April 2, 2012


archangel is an easy read. just dont watch the movie.
posted by Yowser at 3:29 PM on April 2, 2012


Are there other Harris books I'd be better served by, though?

I think Enigma is a his best book and certainly the one that approaches literature - as well as the page-turning plot and the geeky code-breaking stuff it does a great job of conveying the shabby drab realities of life for some on the home front during WWII.

The rest of them are entertaining thrillers (I've not read the Cicero stuff), especially Pompeii which is gripping and great on the details of Roman life (kind of a counterpoint to Enigma) Though The Fear Index is pretty poor.

I'm actually reading The Ghost at the moment (subtitle: Fuck You, Tony Blair), despite having seen the film it is still good fun and there's some nice stuff re the writing process.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:53 PM on April 2, 2012


I never read Fatherland but I did read and enjoy Archangel. My step-father had a seemingly endless supply of espionage style novels that he would bring home from the library, and of the handful I ever attempted to read when there was nothing else around, that was the only book I ever finished (well, except for Gaiman's American Gods, but apparently he checked that out on a whim and hated it, so I knew that would be a good read). Something about the whole third act in Siberia really creeped me out and has stuck with me to this day.
posted by mannequito at 4:58 PM on April 2, 2012


When I was reading Fatherland shortly after it came out in paperback, I was a commuter on Atlanta's MARTA trains, connecting via a bus that stopped right in front of my apartment building. I was waiting for that bus to take me home one day and had the book out. A young African-American man came up to me and said, "Excuse me: are you *really* standing there reading a *book* with a *SWASTIKA* on the cover?"

I wanted to explain that the Nazis were the bad guys in the book, but he was off on a tear and collaring folks and pointing at my book. So I just enjoyed the show...fortunately most everybody seemed to think he was a bit nuts (as did I) and then my bus came.

Wow -- to think with my Kindle this will never happen again. I still think book publishers could make a mint by offering printable temporary Kindle covers of the book you're reading (or want people to think you're reading.)
posted by Infinity_8 at 7:00 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]



I bought my first copy of that novel from a convenience store when I was 11. I'd scrounged change that I found from the couches of various family members. My father was rather intrigued that I was reading a novel, but didn't know the subject of the book. I hid the plot from him as I was reading perhaps too many books with a similar theme.
posted by banal evil at 1:36 PM on April 2 [+] [!]


Now that's eponysteria!
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:05 PM on April 2, 2012


Wow -- to think with my Kindle this will never happen again.

To ensure it does, I have taken to wearing my Schutzstaffel epaulettes everywhere.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:46 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. That was his first novel. I wouldn't have guessed that when I read it.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 7:22 AM on April 3, 2012


Wow. That was his first novel. I wouldn't have guessed that when I read it.

He had written a lot of journalism previously, including several non-fiction books before though... and according to the interview did not exactly find it easy. Still, he does seem a bit of a natural.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:02 AM on April 3, 2012


A young African-American man came up to me and said, "Excuse me: are you *really* standing there reading a *book* with a *SWASTIKA* on the cover?"

That's as nothing. The author's future brother-in-law Nick Hornby visited Harris' apartment when he was starting out work on Fatherland and had to politely ignore a whole bunch of Nazi books and regalia.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:17 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's as nothing, Indigo Jones. Someone I know, let's call him George, had a card-carrying Nazi for a roommate in university (this was at UBC in the seventies). The guy had a Nazi uniform in the closet and a big swastika dividing one half of the room from another. And George is Jewish. It lasted four weeks. George was so scarred by the experience that he never had another roommate — he lived alone until he got married.
posted by orange swan at 7:31 PM on April 3, 2012


Picked up Enigma just now, only a few pages in but it seems like a bit of a rip-snorter. I think I might have found a new thriller writer I enjoy (alongside Ken Follett - it just seems that the Brits do everything better, plus I don't have to keep track of which side of the road a car is on and how come he's looking out the left window and, ugh). Cheers, fearfulsymmetry!
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:52 PM on April 3, 2012


I had a roommate once who would have suited George.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:35 AM on April 4, 2012


Sorry, who would have suited George's four week roommate. I lasted four months only because I had no choice.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:36 AM on April 4, 2012


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