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Hitler: A Short Biography

From acclaimed biographer A. N. Wilson, Hitler is a short, sharp, gripping account of one of the twentieth century's most notorious figures In this brilliant short biography of Adolf Hitler, acclaimed historian A N Wilson offers a fresh interpretation of the life of the `ultimate demon-tyrant of history'.In 1923, aged thirty -four, Hitler was languishing in prison after leading an unsuccessful putsch to overthrow the German Government. Within a decade he was German Chancellor, one of the most powerful men in Europe. How did he do it?Had Hitler been a regular politician, Wilson argues, he would have vanished without trace after his prison experience. But he was not a regular politician, but rather a conjurer, seeing politics not as the Art of the Possible but as the Art of the Impossible: `Whereas politicians watched the weather and waited for calm, Hitler wanted to ride storms.' Among the book's many insights, Wilson shows how Hitler had an intuitive sense which amounted to genius that the spoken word was going to be of more significance than the written word during the twentieth century. In this respect, the Fuhrer is presented as a man ahead of his time, who foreshadowed Hollywood and TV stars and post-war politicians.In a field dense with lengthy tomes, this brief, penetrating portrait provides a compelling introduction to a man whose evil continues to fascinate and appal.
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About the Author

A. N. Wilson was born in Staffordshire and educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he holds a prominent position in the world of literature and journalism. He is a prolific and award-winning biographer and celebrated novelist. His most recent novel, Winnie and Wolf, was longlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize. He lives in London.


`In the best short biography of Adolf Hitler for three decades, A. N. Wilson goes straight to the essentials to explain what made the Fuhrer the phenomenon he was. His conclusions make fascinating, if occasionally uncomfortable, reading even two-thirds of a century after Hitler's death.' -Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War `A. N. Wilson is a born biographer and has an eye for the telling detail. In a book written with verve, insight, and imagination, he gives us a fresh look at Hitler. The story he tells is bound to interest and surprise even those who think they already know and understand this most curious historical figure, one who against all odds rose to become leader of Germany and then promptly brought about the greatest catastrophe in European history.' -Robert Gellately, author of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe `brilliantly dissecting Hitler.... a stimulating triumph of the mind' Sunday Express `brims with the author's customary zip and zing' The Spectator `Wilson...brings a witty, novelist's insight into what made Hitler tick. He seems to understand Hitler's character in a way many historians never could.' Mail on Sunday

Adding to the enormous literature on Hitler, prolific British biographer and novelist Wilson (Dante in Love) focuses as much on the man and his relationships as on his actions and times, for instance, devoting as much attention to the Fuhrer's friendship with British aristocrat Diana Mitford as to the 1935 Nuremberg Laws. Similarly, Wilson devotes more space to the years 1924-1929, when the Nazi Party was in eclipse, than to the WWII years. Wilson engages in some facile comparative history that lends a measure of ordinariness to Hitler. In one case, he makes the untenable statement that Hitler "in his racial discrimination was simply being normal"-this because the U.S. and Britain were "racist through and through"-and that Hitler "was an embodiment, albeit an exaggerated embodiment, of the beliefs of the average modern person." Wilson uses Hitler as an excuse for a backhanded slap at the Enlightenment-the godless age that gave birth to the "modern scientific" outlook that, Wilson believes, led in turn to Hitler. Given the monumental impact of Hitler on modern history, this far too short, superficial biography fails to measure up to its subject. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Is a new Hitler biography necessary? This short volume's "Select Bibliography"-listing 17 earlier biographies-would suggest not. Even the half-awake history student has absorbed at least the outline of this tale: failed art student and layabout becomes the 20th century's "ultimate horror-tyrant," as Wilson puts it. Wilson (Tolstoy: A Biography), a journalist and prolific biographer and novelist, has erected a bare scaffolding of the much-considered life of this "Demon King of history" in order to offer some incisive judgments. For instance, he argues that Hitler and Goebbels each derived from their Catholic upbringing a "system of control" on which the entire Nazi edifice was modeled. Atop this scaffolding sits a provocative final chapter in which Wilson confronts readers with the notion that Hitler might not have been such an utter anomaly. Hitler, Wilson says, "believed himself to be enlightened and forward-looking, non-smoking, vegetarian, opposed to hunting, in favor of abortion and euthanasia." Sound like anyone you know? VERDICT Wilson does not uncover new facts about Hitler's life. He provides instead a brisk overview capped by a "Final Verdict," the title of his unsettling last chapter-one that may raise discussion among its readers.-Sebastian Stockman, Emerson Coll., Boston, MA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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