THE WHITE CROW by James Forman


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As a disturbed, fantasy-hounded art student, ""He was an eagle, strong, remorseless, all-seeing. Wagner's music boomed in his ears. His face contorted with the pain and pleasure of it."" And later, lying wounded in an attic after the Munich putsch, ""he dwelt on agony in his delirium; he blew poison gas at the Jews, the November criminals, the Communists. . . . He flung acid into their faces until their eyes dissolved. . . ."" The White Crow is no less than Adolf Hitler himself, and Forman asks us to travel inside that tortured mind from the traumatic deaths of Hitler's parents to its near breakdown in the wake of the unsuccessful beer hall coup. The characterization exerts a horrible fascination; one credits it from the outset with both psychological soundness and a ghastly particularity that goes beyond mere profile or case history. (The explanation of the origins of Hitler's anti-Semitism, largely drawn from Toland's recent Adolf Hitler, might be debatable as fact but it fits here.) However, Forman never makes his demonic creation work for him to express any compelling viewpoint as one would expect from an adult writer of comparable talent. Indeed his terrible evocation of trench warfare--where Adolf sees gassed soldiers, ""their faces swollen like bursting plums,"" and digs in a darkened trench through what he believes to be rotting tree roots only to find himself elbow deep in a putrid corpse--has both the intended effect of exposing the world's sickness and an unintended one of making us lose sight of Hitler's personal obsessions. Compared to the collage-like legend of The Survivor (p. 482, J-166) the portrait is forcefully energized. But though the reader's curiosity may be sated, an element of irresolution (are we meant to see Hitler as an excrescence or as a fellow human being, however warped?) may also leave one vaguely confused and unsettled.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux