Book Review: Germania by Brendan McNally | Art&Research
Rogue’s Gallery: Key Players of the Flensburg Reich
What about North Texas novelists debuting really bizarre thrillers?
Four years ago, Will Clarke appeared with Love handles of Lord Vishnu. The novel combines terrorism, Dallas social satire, and a Hindu apocalypse. It doesn’t always work, but Lord Vishnu surely ranks among the funniest entertainments of a local writer.
Now comes Brendan McNally (below) with his debut novel, Germany. Germania was Adolf Hitler’s name for his future world capital in Berlin. It’s a terribly ironic title because McNally’s novel is about a German reich that very few have heard of. Most stories of Nazi Germany end with the complete extinction of the last days in Berlin. They rarely deal with what happened next.
An interim government was formed in a town called Flensburg. Its basic purpose was to hold out long enough to get to someone. Instead of Hitler’s millennial Reich, Flensburg was the Reich of three weeks.
So far, so fascinating.
Writers such as Alan Furst and Philippe Kerr discovered these kinds of nuggets to create great WWII thrillers. McNally is a former defense reporter, so military history comes naturally to him.
Flensburg also provides a remarkable cast of desperate and real characters. Many rushed to escape arrest for their war crimes. But simultaneously, even bizarrely, they also hoped to be proclaimed supreme leader of post-war Europe. One of these future leaders was Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect and weapons expert. Another was Henry Himmler.
It’s true. The leader of the SS actually believed that the Allies wanted him to lead Europe. Of course, Himmler was also stupid enough to use his massage therapist trying to arrange a peace treaty with Sweden.
All of this is completely true. But as dangerous and wacky as the Flensburg period was, McNally chose to tell the story by inventing a vaudeville troupe of comedic jugglers-singers-gymnasts.
The Loerber magic flying brothers. Before the war, they were beloved entertainers. But they are secretly Jewish. And they disappoint their fans by mysteriously disappearing. It is only in recent weeks, as Germany descends into chaos, that the four Loerbers reappear in very different roles.
Here is author Brendan McNally reading an excerpt from Germania:
MCNALLY: “Speer tried to remember what he could about the Flying Magical Loerber Brothers. Like everyone else, he had seen them play many times. Still, Speer had been largely baffled by the Loerber Brothers mania. He remembered all the covers of photo and variety magazines. A trademark image of their four identical faces arranged like a crescent moon. Which one is your favorite, he always asked. Which to Speer made no sense for they were all indistinguishable from each other. It was like having a favorite corner of a square building.
The Loerber brothers are an original, sometimes jarring device for telling the story of Flensburg. But they lead to wonderful fictional moments – like when a Loerber teaches Albert Speer to juggle.
It’s when McNally adds psychic powers that things spiral out of control. And become useless. As I said, the history of Flensburg is vague enough as it is. no need to Germany fall off the trapeze and land in the world of Marvel Comics.
But I admit that Germany – like Will Clarke’s Lord Vishnu – may hold your interest. Tonal changes can be distracting, but the books are very readable. I read them to the end wondering – what’s next?
Will Clarke and Brendan McNally wrote these thrillers while hanging out at the local Starbucks. So maybe there’s something in the coffee they serve here.
- Extract GERMANY by Brendan McNally:
If the present is simply the point of intersection between the past and the future, then Flensburg was that unique circumstance where the two simply brush against each other, like two guests at a party gazing at each other while waiting for an absent host to come and introduce them. required. And while the past is solid and unalterable, and the future a swirling cloud of possibilities, in Flensburg the opposite seemed to be the case. Here the future appeared fixed, bright and obvious, while the past was only a murky and moving shadow, on which it is better not to dwell, for its details seemed to change from hour to hour.
And nowhere was the optimism for the future stronger than in the Donitz government. [the Flensburg Reich, run by Grand Admiral Karl Donitz]. The fact that it continued to grow was all the proof some needed to believe they had put themselves on the ground floor of a very promising company. They began looking for more and better furniture, bigger offices with more windows, and any other outbuildings with which to demonstrate their newfound status.
Those stuck in the past, on the other hand, found themselves frantically searching for something, anything, that could help them uplift. Some pushed for the creation of an “interdepartmental working group” to study undefined problems, others asked for diplomatic passports, medical certificates or, failing that, a few sheets of office letterhead, as protection against Allied arrest.
Ziggy [one of the Loerber Brothers who has been working in the Flensburg government] witnessed all of this from his desk in the lobby outside the Grand Admiral’s office. He felt torn from not having slept all night, but, buoyed by a cup of synthetic coffee and a cigarette, he resumed the character of a coldly efficient staff officer and waited for the flood of suppliants.
The first were four Gauleiters [regional leaders of the Nazi Party], all as big as hippos, who waddled through the door in their brown and gold Nazi Party uniforms. They announced that they needed to see the Grand Admiral on “a matter of national importance”. Ziggy asked them to explain themselves. The four men exchanged nervous glances: Should we? Shouldn’t we? The plane leaves tonight. We have to get the passports. But what about the money?
Then, to his horror, Ziggy realized what he was hearing were their thoughts. Their telepathic roar hit him like dizziness.
Tell him we have to go to Spain? Tell him about the conference? Need we mention the meetings with Vargas and the Phalanx? Should we? Do we dare?
Ziggy hated reading minds. He hated it all. Ten years ago he had managed to shut it down and keep it out of the way.
Spain…Swiss account number…Vargas…small contribution to the Falange…Tonight in Kastrup…Copenhagen…Is it necessary? Do we dare? Finally, they didn’t dare and left.
The outer door opened and let in a short, blond-haired man whom Ziggy recognized from the news. “Alfred Rosenberg,” he announced drunk. “Please alert the Grand Admiral immediately. This is a matter of extreme national importance!
Rosenberg had been the Nazi Party’s racial theorist and Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories. But since the party no longer existed and there were no more eastern territories to occupy, Ziggy doubted that Donitz would want to talk to him. He asked him to specify the nature of his activity. “I have come,” proclaimed Rosenberg, “to offer the Grand Admiral my services as a theoretician!” It is vitally important that a conceptual framework be re-established to ensure continuity with our racial identity.
“I’m sorry, the Grand Admiral is very busy at the moment,” Ziggy said. “He asks you to first submit any request to the Allied Control Commission, whose offices are on the second floor.”
Rosenberg stared at him for a long time, then asked, “Do you like beautiful paintings?” Flemish masters? Brueghel? Wouldn’t you like to have one of your own?