Cambridge: the secret formula

So, there’s only one thing you want to read: our secret formula for getting in. The formula to auto-complete your dreams, propel you into a life of punting, formals and strange rituals and secure you a high-profile career.

Parents, pick up your pens: students, read carefully. This is important.


Yep, that’s it. There is no formula.

Let’s get one thing straight first. Applying to Cambridge or Oxford does not make you any better than someone who doesn’t. Cambridge isn’t the right environment for a lot of people – whether it be stress, course or the city itself – and just because you might happen to like it doesn’t mean anything. You’re not applying for a league table position, for a collection of arguably arbitrary numbers – you’re applying for a place to live for possibly 4 years, for a place to study in, to enjoy and to bear. If it isn’t right for you, don’t apply, just the same as any other university.

The beginnings

First things first, look on the websites. Although the internet may have been invented by an Oxford graduate, it’s still pretty useful. As well as the University itself, all the colleges and faculties have their own websites with lots of useful information including course details on them.

The prospectus is also good, but by far the most valuable are open days. Whilst the general Cambridge open days in July can be hectic and confusing, each college and often each faculty will have a specific open day, so you can really think properly about the feel of each component without having to rush around.

If there are any essay competitions, definitely enter them – it’s not only good for your UCAS form, but you might get the chance to meet your potential lecturers and it could help you to choose a college.

The choice

There may seem like a lot of choice for colleges, but don’t worry if you can’t really decide. People choose colleges for very odd reasons – they liked the ducks at Emmanuel, they approved of the banter of Trinity’s chair leg, they had a nice lunch from Queens’ at an open day – it really doesn’t matter!

If you’re good enough, you’ll get in, courtesy of the pooling system. Pick your favourite college, whatever your criteria might be. There’s no point ending up at one you don’t really like, which you chose tactically, when you could have got into your favourite.

The fun

Now we come to the crucial part: the UCAS personal statement. Forget any tricks you were told might work. Be truthful. That means not only actively avoiding any actual lies, but being true to what you are – what your strengths are and what you’re interested in. Don’t pretend to love the War of the Spanish Succession because you think the First World War is too mainstream; likewise, don’t go on about Tolstoy if actually you’d prefer to talk about Putin. If you get an interview (which you probably will if your grades are decent), it’ll be based around your interests, so if your ‘interests’ aren’t true, you’re probably stuffed.

Keep it relevant, and try to be original but don’t sacrifice truth for originality. Spend time getting it right – it’s important – and don’t let other people tell you what you should put if you don’t agree. Some courses such as MML are very broad, so you can focus on what you like – there is absolutely no need to fake a love for literature when you do actually love linguistics, for example.

You also have to complete the SAQ after you’ve submitted your UCAS form, which contains an optional short additional personal statement. Use that to tailor your interest towards the specific Cambridge course and opportunities that offers, such as breadth and variety. Double check you put in all the numbers correctly, because it’s an easy mistake to make, and check you send all the forms your college requires.

Check your college website and any information they send you for details about any essays you might have to send. Depending on your college, these might matter a bit, a lot or not really at all, so check TSR for advice, but in general pick essays you found interesting which are relatively recent.

The moment

If you do get an interview, don’t waste any time in getting ready for it. Ask for accommodation if you’re eligible (most people probably will be, depending on college). Going the day before will remove most if not all travel-related stress, relax you into the environment and give you more chance to make connections with people and the place – don’t forget you have to decide if you want Cambridge as well! If you’re settled, you are much more likely to do your best than if you’re frazzled after a train delay and confused about where you’re going.

It’s meant to be an enjoyable experience, so enjoy it! Socialise as much as you can – there’s no point wasting your energy on jealousy and competitiveness – and be positive about everything you learn.

For those of you with preparatory studies, don’t worry at all – they’re perfectly approachable and are a tool to display your ability. It’s a good idea to annotate a text you might be given, and also anything you’ve read, heard or seen which you can link in in case you forget through nerves.

The interview itself is designed like a supervision, so treat it like a conversation about your favourite subject. As long as you took our advice and didn’t lie on your paperwork, you’ll be fine – if it gets difficult, that’s when it really starts, so think rationally and creatively and reason answers through. They’re interviewing you, not your textbook, so be original as well.

And finally…

There’s no such thing as a typical candidate! Don’t write or say what you think they want you to write or say – it probably won’t work and you’ll get yourself into difficulty.

And that’s why we put a blank space earlier. Yes, there’s no formula, but there is a space full (oxymoron) of opportunity for you to fill it with what you want.

In the words of esteemed Cantabrigian Professor Stephen Hawking, “There should be no boundary to human endeavour.” Try in earnest if you want to, but only if you want to. It’s worth it.


Quark interviews…Nigel Farage

Quark: At what point did you personally become resolved that leaving the European Union was the best path for the UK – after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty or earlier?

NF: Let me be clear – I love Europe, it is a great place. I am married to a European, I’ve worked for European companies and I like European cultures. But I’ve always been wary of the European Project, and pretty early on I began to suspect it had gone far beyond a simple trading deal, which is what my parents’ generation thought we’d signed up for in the first place. The Maastricht Treaty was the final straw for me – it established European citizenship and laid down the agenda for the introduction of a European currency.

Quark: UKIP appear to be winning across quite a few voters from the left-wing – former Labour voters – as well as ex-Conservative supporters. Where does that leave you on the political spectrum?

NF: Well, the first and most important aim of UKIP is to return powers from Brussels to Westminster. National sovereignty is an issue that transcends the traditional left-right dynamic of politics, and so of course we are attracting support from across the political spectrum. Some of our greatest by-election results have been in northern Labour heartlands, which proves we aren’t just taking votes from the Conservative party.

Quark: What is your response to the criticism you receive? It has been said that UKIP is inherently racist, that you are not a party for the modern world and that you simply provide an easy alternative for disaffected voters rather than any serious political intention. How do you react to that?

NF: For years, the ‘old three’ parties have tried to create a narrative that UKIP is somehow extreme or xenophobic – and in the run up to the European Elections they did all they could to perpetuate this image. They found a small minority of our candidates who had said offensive or silly things on social media and got their friends in the media to present them as if they were representative of the views of UKIP as a whole. The fact is, we are a growing party, attracting an unprecedented number of new members and candidates – a very small number of inappropriate people have sadly slipped the net and so we are improving our vetting procedures. But on the whole, the British public have seen through the establishment  smear tactics and that’s why they voted for us in such huge numbers, that’s why we came first in these European Elections. The British public know that we are a party that embraces the modern world but has respect for our nation’s traditions, something the modern Conservative party seems to have forgotten.

Quark: In 2010, you received just under 1% of the vote in Scotland, where you hold no seats. UKIP are against Scottish independence. How difficult is it for London-centric parties to carry gravitas in this election, when some polls suggest that their arguments are merely turning more Scots to support Salmond in defiance?

NF: In the European Elections we recently got our first Scottish MEP elected and we got 10.4% of the vote – we think this is [a] foundation we can build on in the future. I believe Britain is better together and I hope that Scotland votes to remain part of the Union – a union that has benefitted us all for centuries. But I believe what Salmond is offering is a form of false independence; ‘freedom’ from being governed by politicians in Westminster but no referendum on Scotland’s membership of the EU. I hope in the near future that Scotland gets the chance to vote to continue to be part of the United Kingdom and also votes for independence from the European Union.

Quark: The deputy prime minister identified one of the 3 key priorities for the EU as action on climate change. In 2008 you were somewhat averse to HRH the Prince of Wales’ calls for the EU to be the engine of action in that respect. Was this more to do with your qualms about strengthening EU bonds or about the position of the monarchy in global politics?

NF: With all due  respect to HRH the Prince of Wales, climate change is a complex issue; with ‘true believers’ on both sides. One camp insists it is the major issue affecting mankind and the other says it is not happening at all. We in UKIP would like to see an impartial, neutral Royal Commission established to examine the entire issue of climate change and report back. Then we can formulate policy based on fact, not bias.

Quark: The UKIP manifesto includes a promise to develop more grammar schools and technical colleges. However today’s youth are ever more pressured to achieve the highest grades they can. Do you think that increasing the divide between academia and practical careers will help to alleviate this or simply worsen it?

NF: In recent years, I think the way we have demeaned in Britain the idea of people learning skills and trades is just stupid. UKIP would like to see young people offered more options – from trades, apprenticeships to higher learning with all being treated as equally valid.

Quark: A few weeks ago, you made an appearance on “Have I Got News For You”. How important is it for you, as a leader, to be able to be the focus of mockery and humour?

NF: I have always been able to take a joke, and I cannot stand to think that I could become one of these pofaced political drones we see so often on television. I firmly believe you can be a serious politician but still enjoy a laugh now and again, even if it is at your own expense.


These questions were sent on 12th May, thus accounting for a discrepancy in dates between them and the answers, and were answered 6th/7th June due to Mr Farage’s busy schedule.

Quark interviews…Nick Clegg

From L-R: Nick Clegg, Daniz Mobayen, Juliet Armstrong, Lucinda Armstrong

Quark: We know you speak a lot of languages – how useful do you find them, and do you think that in the UK they should be a more important feature of education, like English is in other European countries?

NC: I think languages are hugely important, because they just give you a window, not just onto a language, but onto a culture, onto a different way of looking at the world…and so, I think languages broaden your horizons in a way that very few other things do. Being able to speak to someone else from a different culture, different place, different continent in their language just gives you an insight into how other people see the world, and I think that’s very important, because as a general rule it’s crucial in life not just to see things as you want to see them, but how the world looks from the point of view of other people. You know, some languages are, bluntly, more useful than others: I was brought up with Dutch – my mother’s Dutch – so I was brought up as bilingual, speaking Dutch and English. I still speak Dutch to my mum. I can’t pretend Dutch is the most useful language because they all speak English better than most of us. Obviously German, French, Spanish, Chinese…these are great languages. But I think almost any language is worth learning, and I’m very pleased that one of the things we’ve been able to change while I’ve been in government is to change the rules as far as language teaching’s concerned in primary schools, get kids from an early age encouraged to learn languages. And of course, the danger is that we can afford to be lazy about languages, because they all want to speak English – English is the most useful, the global language bar none. But I don’t think we should allow that luxury to be a sort of alibi not to learn languages.

Quark: Quite right. Closely related to languages is Europe. What would you say the 3 main priorities for the EU are in perhaps the next few years?

NC: Jobs, quite simply. I think to create jobs in an open economy such as ours at a time of globalisation, unless you’re part of what is the world’s largest economy…so jobs is the first one by a long way. 2 other ones I’d probably identify are the environment – the European Union is a sort of leading force in international negotiations on climate change. Climate change by definition is one of those issues you can’t deal with on your own – you have to work with others, so I think it’s a very good thing that the European Union works together to try and raise the game generally in terms of reducing carbon emissions. And thirdly I’d say safety. I literally think there’s safety in numbers, strength in numbers. That has a very concrete meaning. A lot of criminals cross borders; crime is now an international business. You need to be able to work with others, in the EU and elsewhere, to cross borders as well. So jobs, environment, safety.

Quark: So how do you foresee the role of the EU evolving within the next decade?

NC: Well, I was asked about this on television the other day…I think the heart of it will be quite similar. The heart of it is economic, is the growth and the jobs you get by just creating them in a marketplace of 500m shoppers. But I think a lot of other things will change. I hope there’ll be less unnecessary bureaucracy, having got rid of unnecessary red tape…I was talking to a Lib Dem MEP in the area yesterday, and it’s just ludicrous, the migration of MEPs every month from Brussels to Strasbourg costing £150m every year – of course you should get rid of things like that. I just hope it’ll be a bit leaner, a bit cleaner and more transparent. But I think the basic idea behind it, which is to create collective prosperity through creating this big marketplace where 500m people can buy anything we produce here in Sheffield – I think that will remain the heart of it.

Quark: Leading onto that, what do you think are the 3 main arguments for the UK staying in the EU?

NC: Probably the same as what I said earlier, actually – jobs, protecting the environment and safety – but of those, I think jobs…I just don’t see how in a footloose fancy freedom…we’ve got this great debate going on at the moment about Pfizer takes over AstraZeneca – that is just one of the realities of modern globalisation. We’ve got this huge commercial interest – we’re able to, at the push of a button, transfer huge amounts of money from one hemisphere to the next. The idea that somehow, in the face of that modern, globalised reality, we just retreat and cower in a corner and hope that things will sort themselves out – I really do think it’s a dangerous fantasy.

Quark: So what’s your opinion of EU-wide legislation, for example the new reforms to data protection? Do you think it simply over-complicates existing legislation of individual member states?

NC: Oh yes. Some laws aren’t necessary, are disproportionate or are not well-crafted. But, by the way, that happens nationally as well as at an EU-level. And sometimes, it’s painstakingly and mind-numbingly long and laborious, the way some of these decisions are made. I remember when I was working in the European Union – it took 15 years to decide a chocolate directive. Literally a decade and a half to decide the definition of chocolate. So you know, of course…anything…I tear my hair out in Whitehall, quite often, certainly in Westminster – of course there needs to be a reform, of course some decisions are taken which aren’t too smart or should be revised. But I don’t think you solve that by quitting it, that’s the thing: you don’t reform anything by just walking away from it.

Quark: How important would you say a European alliance is now, with the rise of the Asiatic powers? Today, Vladimir Putin has been making public speeches in Moscow and in the Crimea…

NC: Russia’s a very good example. In the long run, Putin needs Europe more than Europe needs Putin. I say in the long run, because in the short run he sells all the gas, particularly to Germany and Italy. I think what will happen in response to this crisis is that the EU will quietly work up strategies to create greater independence from Russian oil and gas, because I think the lesson has been learned in the past 7 weeks that we can’t rely on such a volatile and erratic partner such as Vladimir Putin. And that will damage Russia, and of course Europe is an economic superpower compared to Russia. It’s very important that we speak with one voice, and use that economic clout to make clear that Russia’s behaviour is totally out of order. I think in the long run, Russia will have to mend fences with the EU. There’s no future for Russia, as an economy so heavily dependent on a huge global economy like the EU, there’s no future for Russia without the European Union.

Quark: One bone of contention between Russia and the West at the moment is that they’re habouring Edward Snowden. How do you think we can balance, effectively, national security and the human right to privacy?

NC: [chuckles] I think that’s one of the great debates and challenges of our time. It’s one of the…it’s a sort of classic, can I put it like this, liberal dilemma; how do you protect civil rights, civil liberties and so on when you’re also having to deal with unbelievably sophisticated threats in which the online world is as much a threat to our safety as it is an opportunity. I think the only way you really can square the circle between privacy and security is to add a very healthy dose of accountability, to make sure the intelligence agencies operating on our behalf operate obviously within the law – as they do – and also are constantly scrutinised, so that their activities are only proportionate to the threats they’re trying to deal with. When things go wrong I think we can get uneasy is when there are proposals to scoop up great harvests of data, even from people who are innocent of any wrongdoing. So that’s why I vetoed this idea within government to block what was known as a ‘snooper’s charter’, which basically would have locked any website that you visit, in a year from the first forward slash, and I just thought that was a disproportionate response, storing everyone who is innocent’s internet traffic. That’s the balance we need to strike, and there a number of ways I think we can improve the transparency and scrutiny within which intelligence agencies work, and the proportionality with which information is retained for anti-terrorism and crime-busting purposes.

Quark: Part of the EU data protection reform includes the right to be forgotten. For youth, that means that if somebody gets drunk and puts it on Facebook, Facebook has the responsibility to remove those images. Isn’t it better to educate them not to do that in the first place?

NC: Yes, of course. I think there is an issue…my generation – I’m 47…oh gosh…if I thought everything I’d ever got up to as a youngster was on Facebook I doubt I’d ever have got into politics. No, it’s a serious point, this. I think there’s a level of confessional transparency through social media now which has never happened before. All young people do things about which they’re later embarrassed, or regret, and I think it’s important to remember that what you do one day can be a source of great regret later on.

Quark: To what extent do you think the rise of UKIP in the public eye has been facilitated by the failings of the EU to address everyday British problems?

NC: My own view is that it actually goes slightly deeper than that. Of course there are plenty of things you could say which could be changed about the European Union, which need to be reformed. My own view, having listened to lots of people who are inclined to support UKIP, is that it goes a bit deeper and wider than that. I think there’s quite a widespread sense of fear and insecurity and anxiety after the catastrophe of what happened in the economy in 2008 – people are worried about buying a house, paying their bills, finding a job…and so, as night follows day, I think what happens if you have lots of people who are fearful, you have populists providing very simple answers. And I think UKIP’s not alone – there are sort of Farage-types in every single European democracy at the moment, exactly the same debate going on. I was in – I think you’ll understand this with your German actually – I was in Austria the other day, and there are great big posters of 2 eerie-looking sort of Farage-lookalike politicians, campaigning for the Freedom Party, which a UKIP-style party there. Their tagline was “Wir verstehen Eure Wut” – “We understand your fury” – so you’ve got this kind of phenomenon between populism and feeding people’s fear. And also I think for some people appealing to a sense that some voters, not exclusively but often older voters, might uncomfortable with some of the things in modern life, you know, they might not like same-sex marriage or the fact that thankfully more women are now in work rather than just stay at home. They don’t like what’s on the internet, they don’t like what’s on telly, they don’t like what people wear – there’s a sort of hankering for a past that maybe no longer exists, but the past nevertheless is a very strong impulse. I think that’s what UKIP’s appealing to, and that’s the reason I decided to have these debates with Nigel Farage. I’m being told constantly that I came off the worse in those debates, but I nonetheless was keen to do so and would do so again because I say you can’t win an argument unless you’re prepared to have an argument. You can’t change those deep-seated issues in a few hours’ debate, but you can start to try and challenge them, because before you know it, if we don’t challenge them, we’ll be out of the European Union and will have turned the clock back. It would be a very bad thing.

Quark: So how do you go about capturing those disaffected of the UKIP vote? I [Juliet Armstrong] was recently in the north-east, in a very Labour-centric area, but it was fairly astounding, the number of people who used to vote for the left-wing but now vote for the right-wing. Since the Liberal Democrats are really in the middle, how can you go about capturing that vote?

NC: I think anything that breeds despair and a sense of hopelessness about the modern world is a gift to populists. If you sort of feel that things are happening to you and you’ve got no control over it, if you’re fearful about the future, if you despair about modern Britain, and of course someone like Nigel Farage comes along and says, “Well it’s all the immigrants’ fault”, it sounds terribly seductive – “Oh yes, all our problems can be blamed on somebody else.” You have to show that you’ve got solutions to those problems, and that’s why I try, myself, not to argue about this personality or that personality, and certainly not to do what Labour’s now doing – slagging a whole load of people off, myself included – but to say “Look” – to sort of spell out in coherent terms – “If you want to address those fears and that anxiety, if you want to keep streets safe, if you want to make sure there’s a safe environment for our kids, if you want to create more jobs, if you want to put money in people’s pockets so they can pay their bills, there is no short-cut but to keep our economy strong and open and not to pull the drawbridge up.” If someone has a better idea, please stick it on a postcard. I can’t think of a better way than trying to explain that turning your back on the modern world is not an answer to those fears.

Quark: Talking about the general election – if you had the chance again, say this was 2010 again, would you enter the coalition, knowing you’d have to make so many policy compromises?

NC: Yes. Absolutely. Without a shadow of a doubt. The longer time goes on, the more I feel vindicated for that decision, rather than the reverse. Memories are quite short sometimes – I think people sometimes forget what it was like in 2010. There were riots on the streets of Athens, Alastair Darling was flying to an emergency finance minister’s meeting on the Sunday, people like me were being telephoned saying, “If you don’t have a government on Monday the bond markets will go crazy; interest rates will go up, unemployment rates will go up…”. There was a real sense that we were on a precipice economically. I’m incredibly proud of the fact that we, obviously at some considerable short-term cost, that we stepped up to the plate to try and provide a remedy to the really deep-seated economic crisis that ensued after the crash in 2008. And then, of course, we were put under huge pressure to buckle and change course – do you remember? The endless “PLAN B, PLAN B!” and all the rest of it…the fact we not only entered into coalition but then stuck to a plan to try and create a sense of stability for the economy…and now in the city we’re in now, in Sheffield, we have lower numbers of employment than ever before, lower numbers of NEETs  – young people not in employment, education or training, larger numbers of people in apprenticeships than any other northern city. That really makes me really proud, because one of that would have happened if we hadn’t stuck to our guns…but yes, no-one needs to remind me that there are some people who are unhappy about that. There were some agonising decisions, controversial and unpopular decisions made notably on higher education. But do you think I will look back on it and think, “Well, at least I tried to do the best thing for the country as a whole” – yes I do.

Quark: What image of the Liberal Democrats do you want to produce for 2015? Not to compare you to him, but Lenin summed up the Bolsheviks in 1917 as “Peace, bread and land”. If you could make a similarly catchy slogan, what would you say it was?

NC: [laughs] We’re open, we’re fair and we’re green. I think openness is really important at a time when so many populists now want to close the gate, lock the door and pull up the drawbridge. Fairness is essential as we put the economy on a surer footing, and that’s why everything from better pensions, fairer taxes and more apprenticeships have been so important to me. And green because I think it remains one of those huge huge generational challenges that we can’t just hide away from.

Quark: If we look back at the Liberal Democrats’ time in government, there have been a few scandals, with Chris Huhne, Vince Cable and The Telegraph, Lord Rennard as well – how difficult is it for you, as a leader, to draw people together, to try to negate negative press attention and to try and focus on politics rather than the actual scandals?

NC: It’s a very difficult job. The nature of modern politics…it’s a rough business. Particularly – not saying this in a self-pitying way, but the Lib Dems don’t have any vested interest in the press – there’s no-one there to stand up for us. We’ve got lots of people, left and right, constantly wanting to do us down, so you have to cope with a constant barrage of incoming fire. Some of it might be fair – a lot of it, frankly, is not – but you just have to try to deal with them as they come. But whatever the press might throw at me, I will always defend their right to throw stuff. I think it’s essential in a liberal, open society that the press can be as rude and as challenging and as aggressive as they wish to people in power, because that’s one of the checks and balances we have in our democracy.

Quark: Our final question: what’s your opinion of programmes like “Have I Got News For You”?

NC: I don’t watch…I used to watch it a bit. I used to like it. I just don’t watch that much television any more…no I think it’s a good programme. Why? You mean in terms of what they say about me and stuff?

Quark: We just wondered what your opinion was of it generally: how they analyse the news, when they have guests. Farage was on it the other day – they don’t hold back even when they’re on it – John Prescott for example…

NC: I heard about that, didn’t see it. I think one of the great things which sets us apart from any other country is that we use humour in a much more iconoclastic way than they do in other countries. I think, in other countries, politics is such a…humourless business. When you go into politics, you have to have a thick skin, and you also have to be able to laugh at yourself, otherwise you’d just go spare. I think “Have I Got News For You” is the latest in a long line of that very, very fine and very, very British tradition of satire and mockery of people in public life. Long may it continue.

He’s back, and so’s the debate

If you’ve ever attended a History lesson in the United Kingdom, chances are there’s one name in particular at the forefront of your mind when I mention the word “Germany”.

In an effort to scrub out right-wing political extremism, successive post-war governments and school boards have consistently included studies of the Second World War in primary and secondary schools, meaning that the majority of the UK population is well aware that Hitler arranged the murder of 6 million Jews and was an Austrian sociopath bent on taking over the world.

All this is good. It’s good that every generation is taught the evil of fascist dictatorship, and it’s good that it is despised practically universally in this country. As a successor to wartime propaganda, Nazi inclinations seem to have been completely eradicated after they appeared fashionable amongst certain groups in the 1930s.

What isn’t so good is the concrete view some schoolchildren now hold not only of the subject but of Germany in general. Professor Sir Ian Kershaw, renowned expert on the Nazi period, once said in an interview that they have “never seen a German, they’ve no idea who Germans are, they just know they do terrible things to people called Jews (and don’t know in reality who they are either)”.

The heavy emphasis is wrong. It’s actually harmful*. In-depth exploration of the Nazi period is almost non-existent – it improves at GCSE, and then again at A Level, but for the majority of our population, Hitler remains a monster to be feared and despised, not studied and analysed.

Reading the dictator’s own words alleviate this issue. “Mein Kampf” is available in translation and many excellent biographies, of which the best is Sir Ian’s “Hitler” (2 volumes, “Hubris” & “Nemesis”), explore what are left of contemporary documentation and other sources to analyse how the National Socialist Worker’s Party of Germany got into power, stayed in power and misused that power. Various television programmes, such as “The Nazis: A Warning From History”, “Auschwitz” and “Hitler’s Dark Charisma” also try to make good this educational deficiency.

In Germany, the situation is different. The government is terrified of a neo-Nazi resurgence (as is natural), and the Hitler salute, the swastika and Nazi uniforms have all been illegalised, along with strict security at places such as Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial & Jewish Museum, and the non-existence of plaques marking the location of Hitler’s birth (Braunau-am-Inn in Austria) or bunker (Berlin). All sensible. However, “Mein Kampf” is also inhibited – reprinting is banned and only existing copies may be distributed – which only adds in the large part to the mystery of Hitler. Germans of a certain age cannot even name most of the prominent Nazis due to the subject being strictly off the curriculum for several years.

In 2012, Timur Vermes made his first foray into fiction. The cover is mostly plain, but includes a sweeping forelock of black hair and the book’s title arranged in a specific way on the front. Priced originally at 19.33, “Er Ist Wieder Da” (literal translation: “He’s Back) is a satirical imaginative work, documenting Hitler awakening on a patch of ground in Berlin in 2011 and re-launching himself into the political establishment through an unusual route. This Hitler is not taken seriously; everyone thinks him to be an impressionist, leading to him becoming a talk-show star and YouTube sensation.

It came out in English on 3rd April this year, titled “Look Who’s Back”, to a varied reaction from the press and critics. Some say it’s offensive to his 11 million victims, others that it’s good to poke fun at him. According to Vermes himself, it’s part of the natural progression for such a figure to be regarded. First he was shunned, then despised with secret terror, and now he must be made fun of to remove the element of mystery from his figure. Although this model is of Germany, it relates to the UK too. We need to be able to conquer him again: to remove the feeling of dark mystery currently surrounding the Nazis for the majority of people by openly laughing at him.

“Er Ist Wieder Da” is cleverly written, entertaining and thought-provoking. At points it does go too far (for example at one point when Hitler contrasts inefficiency with the efficiency of the trains deporting Jews to the extermination camps), but on the whole it is a sound idea which hopefully will herald a fresh approach to the way society presents Hitler to the younger generations.


“Look Who’s Back” is published by Maclehose Press Quercus.

*or, as Sir Ian puts it, “of very doubtful value”.