The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad

The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad
The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad

The novel “The Iron Dream” by Norman Spinrad was published for the first time in 1972. It won the Prix Tour-Apollo Award.

Adolf Hitler emigrated to the USA after the end of World War I and there he began working as an illustrator for science fiction magazines. After a few years he became a writer and his 1953 novel “The Lord of the Swastika” won the Hugo Prize, a posthumous recognition since Hitler died shortly after its publication.

The novel “The Lord of the Swastika” is set in a post-atomic future where the world is mostly radioactive. The survivors rebuilt at least partially the human civilization but their descendants are mostly mutant. Feric Jaggar is a Trueman born in the Republic of Heldon but his family was exiled. As an adult he returns to his homeland but realizes that the Dominators are in power so he begins a political activity to make Heldon great again by getting rid of the mutants.

“The Iron Dream” is what is called a book within the book of metafiction, based on pulp science fiction elements to tell a story set in a post-atomic future written by an Adolf Hitler from an alternative universe. In short, Norman Spinrad mixes various genres and subgenres to write a satire of Nazism and not only that.

In the ucronia created by Norman Spinrad, history forks from ours when Hitler had no success in politics and emigrated to the USA. There, the manqué Nazi leader had a short career as a science fiction writer before dying as a result of cerebral hemorrhage.

That alternative history is explained in an introduction and even more so in an afterword to what in that universe is Hitler’s most famous novel, “The Lord of the Swastika”. This book within the book tells the story of Feric Jaggar, a genetically uncontaminated man in a post-atomic world where the radiation generated a majority of mutants among the survivors’ descendants. His family is originally from the Republic of Heldon but exiled for political reasons so he grew up in Borgravia.

When he can finally return to Heldon, Feric Jaggar realizes that the laws that are supposed to defend the citizens’ genetic purity from the mutats’ contaminantion are only formally respected. Even worse, the power seems to be in the hands of the Dominators, half-breeds who are trying to conquer the whole world.

Feric Jaggar’s decision to change that situation and his subsequent political career are a pulp version of the history of Nazism in Germany and some events mirror the historical ones. Jaggar is the pulp version of the Aryan hero, genetically pure and ready to do anything to bring Heldon back to the good old days.

The novel is a satire but it’s not a parody that openly ridicules the protagonists and the “para-Nazi” – or Pulp-Nazi – ideology but is much subtler. For example, Feric Jaggar recognizes the Dominators from their stench exploiting a stereotype of racism and the narrative often goes over the top with the exaltation of the genetic purity of Truemen, often explicitly defined as fanatics.

All this can disturb the reader, also because in the second part of the novel begins the mutants’ extermination and the war against Zind, the enemy power ruled by the Dominators, with more exterminations. That’s because the story was written by what’s supposed to be Hitler’s point of view through his rhetoric.

If you manage to go beyond the disgust for the open racism manifested in the novel, you can see its satirical elements that don’t have nazism only as their target. Hitler’s novel won the Hugo Prize, so Spinrad tells us that he had great success among the readers, who clearly liked that kind of ideology. The parallel with some pulp science fiction’s superheroes is sometimes quite obvious.

Among the first targeted by Feric Jaggar there are migrants who came to Heldon to do humble jobs. In short, whether it’s the 20th or 21st century world or a post-atomic future, certain situations seem very similar. It’s a small piece of the novel that shows some disturbing parallels and how certain seeds of Nazi-like ideologies can be grown.

Hitler’s novel has an afterword signed by one Homer Whipple that is much funnier, also in contrast to the exaltation of Nazism, because it offers a hilarious psychiatric interpretation of the psycho-sexual elements of Hitler’s ideology, focusing in particular on their phallic symbolisms. In large part, this is an analysis applicable to the various historical fascisms the includes their fetishism.

“The Iron Dream” is a novel sometimes not easy to read because it disturbs with what is apparently an ongoing exaltation of Nazi ideals. However, this pseudo-propaganda is interesting because it offers many ideas for an analysis of the historical Nazism, its origins, and its rhetoric. For these reasons, I recommend reading it.

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