Saturday, 2 August 2014
The Revolt of Gunner Asch
Author: H.H. Kirst
Date of publication: 1954, Fontana edition 1971
Status: Abandoned, p. 16
Back cover blurb: 'The "Catch 22" of the German armed forces
Gunner Asch is fed up with his brutal barrack-room companions, with his Nazi bosses, and with the horror and stupidity of the coming war. Also, he is seeing far too little of his girl. But what can one man do against the mightiest army in the world? It is a known fact that every army has its weak spot. So Asch finds the Wehrmacht's - and strikes hard!'
Reading reveals: Former Nazi Party member H.H. Kirst's 'Gunner Asch' series was a huge success, selling millions of copies across Europe, and re-published regularly in the UK from the mid-50s to the early-80s. The writing (or at least, that of the translation) was too perfunctory to engage me, and anyway, I hate books about soldiers because I never know who outranks whom.
What is more of interest to me is the sheer wrongness of the covers they ended up with in the UK. Generally, they were a photographic/cartoon combo featuring German military/Nazi uniforms and women's breasts, neatly encapsulating the weird relationship with WWII some sections of the British public somehow developed in the following decades. Here is a prime example:
Random paragraph: 'Johannes was now standing in front of the entrance to the barrack block. He looked up. He could just make out the shape of a woman leaning out of a window. It was Lore Schulz, the sergeant-major's wife.'