Munich Is a Gripping Thriller Set Against the Backdrop of the Munich Agreement Munich Is a Gripping Thriller Set Against the Backdrop of the Munich Agreement – NTK Network

Munich Is a Gripping Thriller Set Against the Backdrop of the Munich Agreement

Whether it’s Ancient Rome or 20th Century Europe, time and again, Robert Harris writes compelling historical fiction.

By NTK Staff | 01.13.2018 @10:00am
Munich Is a Gripping Thriller Set Against the Backdrop of the Munich Agreement

This year marks the 80th anniversary of Neville Chamberlain’s Munich meetings with Adolf Hitler. Infamously, Chamberlain’s naiveté about Hitler’s true intentions allowed Germany to significantly gain strength, without fear of Allied intervention. Eight decades after those fateful meetings between Chamberlain and Hitler, the venom behind the term “appeasement” has not dissipated. In Robert Harris’ new novel Munich , he fictionalizes those fateful few days through the eyes of two midlevel diplomats, secretly working to expose Hitler’s true, expansionist intentions.

Chamberlain’s misreading of Hitler’s intentions has rightly earned him history’s undying scorn, but Harris’ Chamberlain acts without the burden of history’s hindsight. Harris renders a largely sympathetic portrait of this much-maligned leader, perhaps understanding that while Chamberlain failed, his aim of peace was always sincere.

Harris gives his story a parallel structure, one of the book’s great strengths. The reader alternates between scenes from the perspectives of Hugh Legat, a rising star in the British Foreign Office, and Paul von Hartmann, a Nazi Foreign Office diplomat, disgusted with the regime. Through this arrangement, we see the English and German sides react to the same events with their unique viewpoints. What ties these two characters together is an ultimately doomed scheme to expose secret Nazi documents that would warn the world about Hitler’s true intentions with regard to Czechoslovakia.

It’s always tricky to create sympathetic Nazis. Harris managed that fine line with Hartmann. His task is made easier by virtue of the fact that he’s a secret conspirator against the Nazi regime who is still a German nationalist. Some of the strongest moments of the book take place in a Munich beer garden when Legat and Hartmann, old Oxford chums, debate and explore what it means to be a German nationalist in an age of German monsters.

Throughout his many novels, Harris has always had the ability to transport the reader back to the time period in which the story is told. In Munich, he pulls this off to great effect. One misstep, however, is that he puts Trump’s catchphrase, Make America Great Again, in the mouth of a villainous SS officer Sturmbannführer Sauer who says, speaking of the Nazi regime’s persistent popularity: “But we have done something your kind never managed. We have made Germany great again.” Say what you will about Trump, and his critics call him a moron, immature, fickle, peevish, and temperamentally and intellectually unfit for office, but he’s no Nazi. This lines’ jarring impact knocks you right out of the story and back into present-day. It’s unnecessary.

Yet this is but a small flaw in a massively successful historical espionage thriller. Whether it’s Ancient Rome or 20th Century Europe, time and again, Robert Harris writes compelling historical fiction. Munich fits right in with his great collection of novels.

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