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Captains Ahab and Eva
by Thanos Kalamidas
2007-05-09 10:39:15
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The Lost Life of Eva Braun
Written by Angela Lambert
Arrow Books 2007
I don’t write critics often because, as a principal, I believe that what you like and what you don’t like is very personal and that even goes to what the majority consider classics. Asa very correctly pointed out in the past that even though he could understand what made Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick a classic he didn’t really enjoy it and occasionally he found it boring. Even though it was I who persuaded him to read the book I have to admit that he was right.

But what happens with history books? Would you ever say I like this history book or I don’t like that? I have the sense that there is a lot to say about this. History books supposedly are written with historic facts, are not exactly fiction novels so when you get one you are pretty aware of why you got it and what you are going to read. Of course you have opinion on the persona described on the book or better you might be able to form an opinion on the character but, at the same time, you always have to respect reality.

Captain Ahab in Moby Dick is a complicated character for his time, he was full of anger for the beast and he was also sensitive and full of loss inside his battling feelings. He wanted desperately the beast and he wanted it dead, in his mind the beast represented evil and he had to fight the evil to the end; it didn’t matter whose end. But Eva Braun was sleeping with the beast. She was part of the beast’s hell.

Perhaps moving from Captain Ahab to Eva Braun was quite sudden and unexpected but after reading The Lost Life of Eva Braun written by Angela Lambert I could not avoid, in a very strange way, to keep thinking about Melville’s book. I think the main reason for me doing so was the way Ms. Lambert decided to write the book. Ms. Lambert’s mother was born in Germany, very close to where Eva Braun was born, so they had the same age and both came from the same middle class Bavarian families. Therefore, the author of a historic book used her mother’s life to write only the second book ever published on the life of Eva Braun, Hitler’s girlfriend.

I think my first question when I had read the introduction of the book was, why is this only the second? Over the last fifty years thousands of books have probably been published about Hitler, the Third Reich and the Nazi gang. Why have there only been two about Eva Braun? Of course she exists in all the books, after all she was the beast’s mistress and in the end his wife, and all that in the same period when hell fell on earth, especially on Europe.

After reading the 600 pages of the book I found out why: Eva Braun was a parasite living in the background of the Nazis; she was an opportunist that consciously used her lover to fulfill material dreams that she would never do under different circumstances. In an era and area full of taboos and traditional family values she became, for a long time, the mistress of one of the most hateful men in history.

But then this was not what Ms. Lambert aimed with this book. Through her mother’s life and growing up, Ms. Lambert tried really hard I must admit, to show that Eva Braun was an ordinary Bavarian girl with ordinary ambitions and dreams. She tried to show that Eva Braun was a woman, especially a woman in love, who was blinded by this emotion and failed to see what was really going on around her. If that was Ms. Lambert’s aim I’m sorry to say she failed in the worst way; still the worst is not that, the worst lays in her mother’s memories and life. Ms. Lambert tried to justify Eva Braun’s choices by using her own mother, a real ordinary Bavarian girl that got married and had a family that she was lucky to see flourish.

In my school years in the same class we were 30 teenagers. Twenty of us had similar background and the same support from our houses, looking back after all these decades I can see three MPs, one EMP, many with ordinary lives with families and weekends near the sea. I can see two dead from drugs and one in prison for life for robbing banks and murdering three people. If my daughter ever decides to write a book about the three politicians that might have become historical figures by then or even the criminal I will be devastated, even in my grave, if she mentions my name! I don’t want to imagine how Ms. Lambert’s mother felt when she saw her name and life parading next to Eva Braun’s.

Putting aside the writing style and her mother’s involvement in the book, Ms. Lambert has a few historic errors as well. Ms. Lambert obviously forgot - I think I will return to this ‘forgot’ later - that history is full of facts and indeed sometimes the winners write history but regarding Adolf Hitler, the Third Reich and the Nazi era there is not much room for speculation and hypothesis. There are facts and there is plenty of material, even memoirs from people who were actually there till the very last moment and they can describe in detail what was happening. Ms Lambert obviously didn’t read all these books. There are facts and endless resources for the years 1943-1945, actually, even though not a historian myself, I have a number of books of the certain period and, emphasizing that I’m not a historian, it was pity to find historic errors in her writing.

The only things you can hope is that these mistakes were not intentional, and this is where I return to the word ‘forgot’ I mentioned earlier. Over the last few years it seems that there is a wave of books and films that try to show a more …human side in the beast and his surroundings, including his mistress. It is true that people, especially after the ones that witnessed the era, tend to forget, and it is true that time heals and helps, but regarding Adolf Hitler’s regime and surroundings there is nothing to forget and to heal.

The man and his regime wasted so many human lives and so much blood that for generations and centuries we will all try, just like Lady Macbeth, to wash the blood from our hands. In the end if her attempt to ‘humanize’ Eva Braun was intentional it has gone in vain and, as I said before, it only ruins the memory of Ms. Lambert’s mother.

Be careful, I didn’t say that The Lost Life of Eva Braun is not worth reading, on the contrary. As I said before, despite Ms. Lambert’s aim, you do emerge from the 600-pages with the fact that Eva Braun was a parasite and thinking that it was a pity that she committed suicide never giving justice a chance to do her work. And since we started with Moby Dick, let’s finish with Captain Ahab’s words:

“If you flatter yourself that you are over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more.”

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Asa2007-05-09 10:55:15
Oh God! A 'Moby Dick' flashback! I've come over all blubbery, now I am beginning to whale and spout rubbish.

Ha, here's me harpooning on!

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