Ira Levin’s ‘The Boys from Brazil’…..
I have had a first edition copy of Ira Levin’s The Boys from Brazil for a number of years now and it has always been one of those I have meant to read. Despite it being set in the 1970s I generally tend to steer clear of any WW2 and earlier subject matter as my interests have long been immersed in the Cold War period. But I remember the film version from1978 and the work of the Nazi hunter was always an interesting one to me so last week I read it and was glad that I did.
Ira Levin (1929-2007) wasted no time in grabbing the reader’s attention, published in 1976, it begins with a meeting of shadowy, sinister men and a vicious cold-blooded murder which sets the tone for the rest of the novel. Centred around Yakov Liebermann, an ageing Nazi hunter doubtless modelled on the real-life Simon Wiesenthal and the infamous and very real Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele, it brilliantly brings to life that which we all knew, that there was a presence of ex-Nazi’s in South America and there were very brave and determined individuals who sought to bring them to justice.
Mixing fact with fiction is widely used of late, there are a number of authors who have used it really quite lazily and it can often be irritating and more detrimental to the author’s credit than perhaps they realise. Levin, however, in this forty two year old novel strikes the right balance and keeps the villainy of the Nazi’s at a chillingly yet sensible level. Biological engineering is the thrust of the plot, Levin captures the appalling experiments of the Nazi past and blends it with a more futuristic 1970s plan which, in 2018, no longer seems so unlikely.
It is a worthwhile read, a well-paced thriller which reminds us of the type of men who were fanatical followers of Hitler and the Nazi movement. Levin gives the sense that a violent act is moments away but it is written in a very understated way which, to this reader, only heightens the tension and the murderous act itself. He was a quality author and this is a quality thriller. It makes me want to seek out the film adaptation once more but in the meantime the book feels as real and relevant as it doubtless did in 1976 if not more so.
Categories: The Reading Room