This is the 7th novel of Bernie Gunther series. I thought (why?) that this was
4th book before start but the topics are mostly independent, there wasn’t
anything that I felt I’ve missed from books 4-6.
I began this on February 21, 2018 and finished on April 7th.
“I think it has something to do with the fact that unlike white women, black
women have a pelvis that’s almost as big as a man’s. An anthropoid pelvis. And
before you ask me how I know that, it’s because I used to be a nurse.”
I’d heard it said that you had a better chance of surviving cardiac arrest at
Casa Marina than you did at the University of Havana Medical School.
“I won’t deny that things could be better. But every revolution smokes well
before it turns to ash. Yours will be like all the others that went before. I
guarantee it.” Melba was shaking her pretty head, but warming to my subject, I
kept on going: “Because when someone talks about building a better society, you
can bet he’s planning to use a couple of sticks of dynamite.”
It wasn’t that she wanted me. I can never figure why a woman wants a man at
all—not when women look the way they do. It was just that she was young and
scared and lonely and wanted someone—anyone would have done, probably—to hold
her and make her feel like the world cared about her. I get like that myself
sometimes: You’re born alone and you die alone, and the rest of the time you’re
on your own.
After about three or four hours it got dark and I could see the lights of the
U.S. naval base at Guantánamo, twinkling on our port side. It was like staring
at the ancient stars of some near galaxy that was at the same time a vision of
the future in which American democracy ruled the world with a Colt in one hand
and a stick of chewing gum in the other.
You can stand being locked up almost anywhere so long as you manage to establish
some sort of a routine.
I got a good view of the Statue of Liberty as we took off. I had the peculiar
idea that the lady in the toga was giving the Hitler salute. At the very least,
I figured the book under her left arm was missing a few important pages.
The fact was, they were wearing uniforms but they didn’t belong to the U.S.
military; they were Pentagon bureaucrats, prosecutors from the American
Department of Defense. Only in America could they have given lawyers a uniform.
[R]emember what Goethe said. He said the greatest happiness for us Germans is to
understand what we can understand and then, having done so, to do what we’re
It’s one of life’s little jokes that whenever you think things can hardly get
any worse they usually do.
American tobacco, that much was clear from the sweet smell. Probably they put
sugar in it the way they put sugar in almost everything—in coffee, in liquor, on
fresh fruit. Maybe they put sugar on their wives, too, and if the men were
anything to go by, they probably needed a little sweetening.
Nobody really believes in the euphoric dream that’s built on this book or that
historic vision; they believe in a kind word, a kiss from a pretty girl, a ring
on a finger, a happy smile.
“I take it back. You’re much worse than the Gestapo. They didn’t pretend they
were defending the free world. It’s your hypocrisy that’s offensive, not your
brutality. You’re the worst kind of fascists. The kind that think they’re
“Tell me, Gunther. Did you ever read it? Hitler’s book.” “Yes. I prefer Ayn
Rand. But only just.” “Do you like Ayn Rand?” “No. I think Hitler would have
liked her, though. He wanted to be an architect, too, of course. Only, he
couldn’t afford the paper and the pencils. Not to mention the education. Plus he
didn’t have a large enough ego. And I think you’ve got to be pretty tough to
make it in that world.”
It was said that Hitler had been gassed and was temporarily blinded, and if that
was so, it explained a lot.
He must have thought I was a beefsteak Nazi: brown on the outside, red on the
“If you’re going to be a philosopher, you’re going to have to grow an enormous
beard or a silly mustache. Those are the only people we take seriously in
We walked to Gebhardt’s hut. Halfway there Savostin saw some guards and barked
some orders in a language that wasn’t Russian and, noticing my curiosity, told
me that it was Tatar. “Most of these pigs who guard the camp are Tatars,” he
explained. “They speak Russian, of course. But to make yourself clear you really
have to speak Tatar. Perhaps you should try to learn.”
“You wanted a detective from the Alex, Colonel, and that’s what you got. You
think those bastards always play fair? By the book? Rules of evidence? Think
again. Berlin cops have planted more evidence than the ancient Egyptians. This
is how it works, sir. Real police work isn’t some gentleman detective writing
notes on a starched shirt-cuff with a silver pencil. That was the old days, when
the grass was greener and it only snowed on Christmas Eve. You make the suspect,
not the punishment, fit the crime, see? It was always thus. But more especially
here. Here most of all. That Major Savostin isn’t the laughing policeman. He’s
from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. I just hope you didn’t sell me too hard
to that coldhearted bastard, because I tell you this.
“Imagine how we felt when we discovered that the GVL was helping to train
Egyptians and Syrians for a war with the state of Israel. With the Jews,
Gunther. Talk about history repeating itself. I would think a man like you,
someone who wasn’t ever anti-Semitic himself, might want to do something about
that. Israel is our friend.”
France was a fascist country during the war. Even more so than Italy or Spain.
But even now, they like to portray themselves as victims. To hold others
responsible for their crimes and misdemeanors.
“They were criminals recruited by Knochen,” said Eyebrows. “Armenians, Muslims,
North Africans, mostly.” I smiled. This, or something like it, was what the
French always said when they didn’t want to admit that almost as many Frenchmen
as Germans had been Nazis. And given their postwar record in Vietnam and
Algeria, it was tempting to see them as even more racist than we were in
Germany. After all, no one had forced them to deport French Jews—including
Dreyfus’s own granddaughter—to the death camps of Auschwitz and Treblinka.
“Berliner Luft” and I was clapping and whistling in all the right places for a
true citizen. In Berlin it wasn’t about being German—Hitler and Goebbels never
understood that—it was being a Berliner first and telling anyone who wanted to
change that to go to hell.
“It’s just that I don’t trust our Western allies not to use us as cannon fodder
in a new war that some lunatic Confederate American general thinks he can safely
fight on German soil. Which is to say, a long way from America. But which in
reality no one can win. Not us. Not them.”
“Trouble?” I smiled ruefully. “Life is trouble. Only the naïve and the young
imagine that it’s anything else. It’s only trouble that finds out if we’re up to
the task of staying alive.” “Because if you are in trouble…” “I hate to ask you
another favor….” She took my hand and kissed the fingers,
In my experience, women like the idea of jewelry no matter what it looks like.
If they like you, then they’re almost always pleased to see a ring of any size
“My wife died, twice. The first one after the first war and the second one soon
after the second. That’s not a record you can be proud of as a husband. If
there’s another war, you should probably take the precaution of divorcing me
quickly. But frankly, I’ve always been better at finding other people’s husbands
or sleeping with their wives. What else? Oh yes, I’m a born loser. That’s
important for you to know, I think. This, at least, explains my current
situation, which is not without its hazards, angel. I daresay you’ve gathered
that. A man doesn’t work for his enemies unless he has little choice in the
matter. Or no choice at all. I’m just a cheap paper knife. People pick me up
when they need to open an envelope,
You would have thought we were expecting to see West Germany’s FIFA World Cup
team arriving home, victorious, from the “miracle of Bern” and not a train
carrying SS and Wehrmacht, none of whom had expected ever to be released from
Russia and who were all of them entirely ignorant of the fact that Germany had
won the World Cup or even that Konrad Adenauer, the former mayor of Cologne, to
whom they owed their freedom, was now chancellor of another German republic—this
time the Federal Republic of Germany.
“There’s something about nurses that always attracts me. I used to think it was
the uniform, but now I don’t know. Maybe it’s just sympathy for anyone who has
to do someone else’s dirty work.”
“Any fool can solve a crime, Frenchman. It’s proving it that wears you out.”
“I wish someone would write and offer to marry me,” said Wenger as he drove the
car. “Or, at the very least, offer to take the place of the wife I already
And lately, as if to remind myself of this fact, the little black knight’s head
was often held tight in my fist the way a Mohammedan might have used a set of
beads to utter the ninety-nine names of God and bring him closer during prayer.
might even have mentioned something about the unquestioning assumption of all
Americans that they had right on their side—even when they were doing wrong—and
the irritation that the rest of the world felt at being judged by them; but that
would have been to overstate the matter on my part.
[T]hey preach about the magnificence of their democracy and the enduring power
of their constitutional freedoms, while at the same time they’re trying to fuck
your wife and steal your watch.
No less incredible is the fate of Martin Sandberger, who commanded
Einsatzkommando 1a (part of Einsatzgruppe A). Sandberger was, until his death in
a Stuttgart retirement home on March 30, 2010, at the ripe old age of
ninety-eight, the highest-ranking war criminal known to be alive. A doctor of
law, he presided over the murders of some 14,500 Jews and communists and was
sentenced to death in 1951; this was commuted to life imprisonment, and
Sandberger was paroled in February 1958.