11.30.12 7:13 PM ET
What's With India and Hitler?
Fascinating piece in the Beast by Dilip D'Souza on the Hitler obsession in India. Pretty disturbing:
Consider Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. Reviled it might be in the much of the world, but Indians buy thousands of copies of it every month. As a recent paper in the journal EPW tells us (PDF), there are over a dozen Indian publishers who have editions of the book on the market. Jaico, for example, printed its 55th edition in 2010, claiming to have sold 100,000 copies in the previous seven years. (Contrast this to the 3,000 copies my own 2009 book,Roadrunner, has sold). In a country where 10,000 copies sold makes a book a bestseller, these are significant numbers.
And the approval goes beyond just sales. Mein Kampf is available for sale on flipkart.com, India’s Amazon. As I write this, 51 customers have rated the book; 35 of those gave it a five-star rating. What’s more, there’s a steady trickle of reports that say it has become a must-read for business-school students; amanagement guide much like Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese or Edward de Bono’s Lateral Thinking. If this undistinguished artist could take an entire country with him, I imagine the reasoning goes, surely his book has some lessons for future captains of industry?
The Amazon mention reminds me of a very funny story told me by a fellow journalist a number of years ago. He was at Amazon looking up Ann Coulter's then-current title; Treason, it might have been. And he told me that it actually said there that people who bought this book also bought Mein Kampf by A. Hitler.
The Adolfilia, D'Souza reports, is largely down to one man, a crackpot Indian nationalist leader who died recently and feels about Muslims the way Hitler felt about Jews. It's the same the world over. Although I did hear on NPR last night an interesting report the gist of which was that the right-wing party in Spain can't seem to get any traction, which came as a nice, pleasant surprise. With 24 percent unemployment, you'd figure there'd be a hefty critical mass of Spaniards itching for a new Guardia Civil to detain and whip on some Moroccans.
I think there are a lot of people who let fascination with history's monsters get the better of them and transmute into sympathy or respect or something. I share the fascination. Not long ago I finished reading HHhH, an excellent novel by Laurent Binet about the Czech plot (successful) to assassinate Heydrich. Now there was a monster. Qualifications for eternal damnation don't come much higher than presiding over the Wansee Conference. But repulsed fascination is one thing, respect quite another. The world should always have the first, because future generations should always study how that happened, always seek to understand how so many people came to accept it, and always be on watch against it.