This book is the brightest example about how a traditionally published author may become famous internationally. Even though this is not my favourite genre, I must admit that the book is perfect. Both in the plot and in the written language. I never read a book written in a so perfect English. Hence, about this, there are two options: or the author has a great writing talent or the editor of the traditional publisher did a great editing work. However, Robert Harris is a famous British novelist who wrote other successful novels. Due to the fact I am Italian, I don’t know much about this novelist, except that I have read the UK edition of the book (for the US edition, click here), whose cover summarizes the creepy and murky environment of the plot.
I also know Robert Harris has written the bestseller Fatherland and the Cicero trilogy. According to The Guardian and The New York Times, Robert Harris is a real spy novel star. I don’t know even about this, but I am sure of having read a good historical novel written as a fictional story. The novel brings the early stages of the Second World War to live, but above all, it brings the ominous personage of Adolf Hitler to live. I always hated this dictator, in my view, it is the true incarnation of the Antichrist and the author has well highlighted these ominous features in the book. The novel tells about what happened during the conference hold in Munich between September 29 – 30, 1938, when Hitler and his political and military staff summoned the European prime ministers and their secretaries to Munich, in order to sign an agreement to claim the German territory in Czechoslovakia.
The men who were invited to this conference were Neville Chamberlain, Hugh Legat, for the UK government, the French prime Minister Édouard Daladier, the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, called “ the Duce”, and his son in law Galeazzo Ciano. I particularly appreciated the Italian details of the novel, because I discovered a hidden side of Benito Mussolini. Known as a vigorous and mannish dictator in Italy, in the novel, Mussolini appears too submissive and full of fear toward Hitler. Furthermore, the Duce is described as one who boasts to speak a perfect German and English and instead is unable to translate the international agreements.
This contrast showed me the real nature of the Italian politicians and just these days where Italians have lived a new election day, I finally understood that the Italian politicians have always been only losers , just as Benito Mussolini was because of his alliance with Adolf Hitler. In the novel, the latter is described as a dead soul and a criminal as his military staff consisting of Himmler and Ribbentrop. The British politicians know that the German team is a criminal gang and think to plot in order to kill Hitler and stop the arrival of a bloody world war. Through the various chapters, the arrival of the war and its disastrous consequences are seeded everywhere, above all in the dialogues of Paul von Hartmann, the man who knows about the true intent of Hitler, namely the member of the staff of the German Foreign Office and secret opponent of the Führer. Hartmann is a friend of the British secretary, Legat, they studied at Oxford.
Due to this friendship, Hartmann is secretly pursued by the Gestapo and SS. In the book, the looming war is everywhere, Germany is festooned with Swastika and Nazi symbols and in the distance, along the border of the German territory, the first concentration camps start appearing. This distressing environment is well described in the novel. You can sense anguish, solitude and desolation, but also powerlessness, the same powerlessness of men such as Mussolini and other European politicians who wanted to prevent the war and failed to stop it! However, the long descriptions about the reactions and dialogues among the various characters can be a little boring. It is as if the history of the world has been only focused on a bunch of men around a table. This narrative technique diminished the suspense of the entire novel. For this reason, my rating is 3.9 stars.
Anyway, for the historical relevance, Munich can be translated into Italian, also. Indeed, this novel is the brightest example of an historical witness about the real reasons of the Second world war, but also a warning about what could happen if these conditions should repeat again. Nowadays, tensions among opposites countries are very high, North Chorea threats the world with its nuclear arsenal, and also Russia and the US do the same to prove their military force. The world balance is shaky. Through the fictional and historical account about the turbulent days of the conference in Munich, Robert Harris gave us an opportunity to better understand our past and defend our future.
Title of the book: Munich
Author: Robert Harris
Genre: historical novel
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Amazon.co.uk (UK edition)
Amazon.com (US edition)