Wednesday 18 February 2009

Manners and Monsters

Just as, according to Nabokov, you can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style, so, I've always thought, you can count on a murderous dictator to have impeccable table manners. I always imagine Hitler at table as a plump, simpering, ladylike figure, raising a fondant fancy to his lips with a raised pinky, or daintily sipping the cup that cheers from a fine bone-china cup. It seems I was wrong. In all fairness, though, a dictator might well let his table manners slip when he's holed up in a bunker facing certain death, while his regime is destroyed and his country flattened. The odd lapse is surely permissible in such circumstances. I reclaim AH for the raised pinky brigade.
Meanwhile in Cambodia, another mild-mannered monster goes on trial. Another former schoolteacher... I bet he has impeccable table manners.


  1. The other surprising (to me)thing about Hitler is that he seems to have been unusually lazy, often lying in bed till noon and then taking his dog for long leisurely walks while others sweated over the implementation of his hideous schemes.It seems natural to imagine that anyone who did that much harm must have been a monster of energy, a demonic micromanager; creepier, somehow, to think of him as some vile slob who just let his wishes be known and then let others get on with it.

  2. No wonder Onkel Adie munched cakes, he was from Linz, as for the beer, he spend an an awfull amount of time in Munich's Marienplatz, what else would he drink, gin ?
    The mother of an old German colleague of mine worked at the Berlin Opera, he was born within weeks of me in 1942, we often compared notes, having lived just off the Unter den Linden his story was more interesting than mine. Erich told me that he had asked her once, did you ever meet you know who ? she said not to speak with but he used to smile at her as he passed but she thought him "odd", she did however think Speer was "a perfect gentleman".
    Hey Ho, crumpets anyone.

  3. Yes that is extraordinary isn't it - and his military incompetence seems to have been quite remarkable, with German successes often achieved despite his efforts. He must have had some amazingly capable people around him (alas).

  4. The cake-gobbling thing is in Joachim Fest's book about the last days, i think it's called Inside the Bunker or something similar. Strangely childish, somehow, as if he were trying to go back to the boy he had been as everything was crumbling around him.

  5. Impeccable table manners...and a 'deep serious interest in music, painting, sculpture and architecture.' Hitler, as John Carey has put it is 'the most prominent instance of art-worship co-existing with disregard for the fate of humanity..." Where beauty...and table manners...matter more than people.