Long Description – Something to remember me by
The story begins in Wolfschantze from where Hitler is directing German forces in the war he’d started with the Russians and is now losing. His barber had just been consigned to an extermination camp after it was discovered that he had Jewish blood in his ancestry. The barber’s replacement is Heinz Linge, a soldier in General Model’s ninth army, who was a barber before the war. Heinz Linge is an uneducated but highly intelligent, young man. The first part of the story focuses on his survival in the dangerous and bizarre world that flourishes around Hitler. After the war Linge emigrates to America and ends up working in a pharmaceutical company in New England. He spends his vacations getting to know his new country. After one such exploratory trip to Las Vegas he meets a dental hygenist on the return flight to New Haven and after a fairly brief courtship they fall in love and marry. They have two children.
One of the children, a boy and the first born, grows up to become a scientist specializing in in vitro fertilization (IVF). The other child, a girl, becomes a nurse. The barber has only two mementos of his brief time with Hitler – a lock of Hitler’s hair and a personal Ausweis (pass), signed by Hitler. When the barber dies the son finds the lock of hair and mistakenly assumes that it belongs to his father. Heinz Linge had always maintained a fake Swiss citizenship to conceal his past as a German and Hitler’s barber. The only person who knows the truth about his early life is his wife. She dies ten years after Heinz. The son extracts the DNA from the lock of hair and with his sister’s fiance, who is also an IVF scientist, incorporates the DNA in an experimental procedure the scientists are trying for an infertile couple who were friends of his father. The results of the experiment are not clear but the IVF is successful and a baby, Sonny, is produced.
The boy resulting from the IVF conception grows up. Sonny shows unusual artisitic talent at a very young age. He becomes an architect. Linge’s daughter, Elizabeth, is a young woman who has a character that is remarkable for its likeability and compassion. She marries the scientist who is the colleague of her brother and has two children of her own. Her brother also marries and has three children. The two families are very close and come to think of themselves as members of the Linge patriarchy. The erstwhile infertile couple also become members of this patriarchy. The young architect becomes famous after designing the Boston Municipal Center. The company he works for is owned by a famous Jewish architect, Abraham Beckman, who is approached by the German and Israeli governments to design a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Beckman, who recognizes Sonny’s prodigious gifts, passes the project on to him. Sonny falls in love with and marries Elizabeth’s daughter, Alice.
Linge’s son, Adam, and his brother-in-law Clive spend time discussing the impact of viruses on human genetics. Adam learns the true story of the lock of hair and its origin from his sister who their mother had confided it to before her death. Adam researches Hitler’s genetic background and comes to the conclusion that the only reasonable explanation for Hitler’s pathology is a viral infection that corrupted his brain. He finds out that there is a likely candidate – the Borna virus – that was active in middle Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. The novel concludes with Sonny creating a monument which satisfies both the German and Israeli governments and winning an award that is the equivalent in architecture of the Nobel prize.