Following someone else’s lead, I decided to spend this week reading my (barely touched) copy of Adolf Hitler’s bestselling autobiography ‘Mein Kampf’.
Firstly, I can tell you that reading this book in Starbucks attracts a lot of unwanted attention. Secondly, I don’t think I’ve ever read a more poorly written book in my life.
I expected nothing else, of course, and in the introduction (I was reading the Picarus edition), the translator even forewarns the reader that the book is quite laborious and difficult to finish. Hitler’s sentences ‘lack rhythm and poetry’. He stresses the wrong words, leads with the wrong phrases and finishes without conclusions.
The attempts at scientific comment in particular, amount to ranting ignorance.
Here is a representative paragraph:
“Whenever Aryans have mingled their blood with that of an inferior race the result has been the downfall of the people who were the standard-bearers of a higher culture. In North America, where the population is prevalently Teutonic, and where those elements intermingled with the inferior race only to a very small degree, we have a quality of mankind and a civilization which are different from those of Central and South America. In these latter countries the immigrants – who mainly belonged to the Latin races – mated with the aborigines, sometimes to a very large extent indeed. In this case we have a clear and decisive example of the effect produced by the mixture of races. But in North America the Teutonic element, which has kept its racial stock pure and did not mix it with any other racial stock, has come to dominate the American Continent and will remain master of it as long as that element does not fall a victim to the habit of adulterating its blood.”
This kind of rambling pub philosophy takes up a good third of the book. The other two thirds are tedious (and often phoney) recollections of childhood and youth.
Still, as with any book of this length, there are occasional flashes of truth, and occasionally, insight. One such moment of clarity is when the Austrian talks about the transient convictions of the general public. About halfway through, the budding despot complains that after a rally in which the audience seemingly accepted his arguments, it would take only a few days for that same crowd to applaud an opposing thesis.
This is (sadly) all too accurate and the process can be observed in any democratic society. Just watch an episode of Question Time to see how fickle the modern crowd can be.
As regards this volume in general, it’s an agonising shame that Europe was once in such a low mood that it accepted this drivel as profound.