Sunday, 8 December 2013

Rabb, Rosa Luxembourg and some wee anachronisms...

Drew Ratter on another chronicler of the inter-war years...

Jonathan Rabb

Jonathan Rabb is American,but doesn't really feel it, any more than does Alan Furst or Philip Kerr, respectively American too, and Scottish, respectively. They appear to be sort of international initiates in some arcane brotherhood of the interwar years, more specifically the sept which psychically exists in Germany and Eastern Europe.

Rabb is the least prolific of the three, all young men. He is also formally the most academic. Both his parents and most of his grandparents were historians, so it seems, and he gravitated naturally to Yale and Columbia.

His early life as a historian imbues his Berlin trilogy. The immediate post war period is meticulously delineated, and Kriminal Kommissar Hofner works out of the Alex; very familiar to friends of Kerr's Bernie Gunther (who, as a character lives much more strongly in my head, by the way).

The Rosa of the title is the murdered socialist leader Rosa Luxemburg, who so tragically overestimated the internationalism of the industrial proletariat. Other historical figures flit in an out, mingled with the fictional players, Karl Liebknecht naturally, as a corpse, but lesser known socialists and heroes of the Spartacus League like Leo Jogiches flit about, half seen, in the wings. Jogiches then turns out to be crucial.

As well as the heroes, of which there are but few, there are villains. Many villains, easily available, as we are well aware given the era, and the fact that by the early 1930s, a mere decade later, evil had comprehensively triumphed in Germany. Included are not only members of the Freikorps, who were the backbone of the SS, but also the natural foe of the Kripo, the criminal police, the Polpo, the political police. Thereafter, this latter organisation became the basis for the Gestapo
The hook is the fact that there have been constant doubts expressed about whether the shot and bludgeoned corpse examined following its discovery was really that of Luxemburg. DNA analysis in 2009 did not, as anticipated, clear up the whole mystery.

A good read, overall, with  a strange and worrying lace-obsessed murderer with perhaps a slight hint of Jean Baptiste Grenouille? But then, he doesn't turn out to be so central after all.

And so it redoubles and redoubles. The final verdict? Vastly learned, but rather longwinded. And the anachronisms..............even up to and including "So we're good here"