Tuesday, October 30, 2012
They Saved Hitler's Brain
According to the original hardcover edition, which was published by St. Martins in 1972, author Roland Puccetti was born in Oak Park, Illinois--one-time home of Frank Lloyd Wright, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Ernest Hemingway--and "read philosophy at Illinois University." There is no such place as Illinois University. Perhaps the leaf meant the University of Illinois, from whose library I checked out this amazing work of fiction. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if everything about Puccetti, who also "went to live in Tahiti as a kind of intellectual vagabond" and translated the poems of Garcia Lorca while taking a doctorate in philosophy at the Sorbonne, is bullshit.
Whomever Puccetti is, he has one whale of an imagination. Our hero is Karl Gisevius, a physician who by chance hears the dying words of a Russian doctor who was part of the team that invaded Hitler's bunker at the end of World War II. The man claims Hitler's brain was missing. Gisevius miraculously believes the guy and convinces his editor (he's the science editor of a Paris newspaper) to send him to Berlin to check it out.
Gisevius miraculously (I could use that word a lot when describing events in THE DEATH OF THE FUHRER) enters the bunker by slithering down an old air vent and stumbles upon clues that not only back up the dead man's story, but indicate the surgery may have been performed by none other than Willi Tranger, an old school rival of Gisevius'--fencing rivals who gave each other facial scars during a particularly nasty match.
Tranger, a sadistic SS doctor during the war, is holed up with a bunch of former Nazis in an old Spanish castle. Gisevius miraculously (never mind) infiltrates the group by jumping his motorcycle over the stone wall and claiming his throttle was busted! Tranger believes him and introduces him to the group, including a gorgeous blonde Baroness who's the only woman living in the castle.
Let me just get straight to it. The Baroness eventually seduces Gisevius, and while they're wildly making love in her room, right at the point of orgasm, she screams, "Ich bin Der Fuhrer!" Realizing in a split second that Tranger has transplanted Hitler's brain into the Baroness, he pulls out of her and plunges a knife into her chest, killing her.
That's page 123 of a 223-page book. The plot gets even stranger, if you can believe it. Tranger eventually captures Gisevius and implants a metal box in his brain that the evil doctor can control remotely. He can make him happy or sad in an instant, hungry, even horny enough to screw a couch!
Gisevius escapes the trap and makes his way to the doctor's office, WHERE HE CUTS OPEN HIS SKULL, TAKES THE BOX OUT, DECAPITATES A GUARD WITH A SURGICAL SAW WHILE THE TOP OF HIS BRAIN IS EXPOSED ("If I so much as leaned forward, the cerebrospinal fluid encasing my brain would spill out; I could imagine the sticky liquid dripping over into my face and blinding me), AND SEWS HIS HEAD BACK TOGETHER AGAIN.
Needless to say, Hitler's brain is still friggin' alive, there's a castle deathtrap, a climactic fencing duel, characters carrying around the brain like a football, a massive Bondian exploding compound, and a but-did-it-really-happen ending. Holy shit.
There are no words to explain the wonderfulness of THE DEATH OF THE FUHRER.