We are who we pretend

Nick Nolte as Howard Campbell in a scene from ''Mother Night'' (1996, dir. Keith Gordon), a film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's novel. The writer dedicated the book to Mata Hari, and took the title from Goethe's 'Faust'. Campbell also appears in Vonnegut's later novel, "Slaughterhouse-Five". Photo credit: New Line Cinema/Getty Images

The author of 'Mother Night' wrote compassionately about his protagonist that he was a man "who served evil too openly and good too secretly, which was the crime of his time".

11 November 2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of American novelist Kurt Vonnegut.

This is a very bleak book, though full of brilliant black humour. "Mother Night" was written by Kurt Vonnegut in 1961 and is an edited account of the memoirs of American journalist and playswriter Howard W. Cambpell jr, whose life was affected by the fact that he lived in the Third Reich and toiled in Nazi propaganda.

The man had already settled in Germany when he was eleven years old. The year was 1923, and the future writer's father got a job at the Berlin branch of General Electric. Campbell himself - as he claimed - even grew into Germanness. And when his parents returned to the USA after the outbreak of the Second World War, he did not leave Germany. In fact, he was connected to the country through his marriage - to the actress Helga Noth, daughter of the Berlin police chief.

Campbell appeared in radio broadcasts in English in which he tried to convince Americans of Nazism. For this reason, he was declared a war criminal by the Allies. And this activity of his might have determined that he would have ended up on the gallows shortly after the defeat of the Third Reich, had it not been for the fact that... at the same time he was spying for the USA. And he had already been recruited in 1938.

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