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This theory of history reflects his own toxic envy, but the picture that emerges of Kohler himself is painfully real, and his humiliation over his own minor failures leads him to exhibit what Gass diagnosed as “a slightly hidden fascist mentality” common in the United States.This is an immensely important theme, and Gass explores it relentlessly.It’s not long before he’s expelled from high school.
In his 1968 novella “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country” he evokes a Midwestern town in which tribalism transcends mere selfishness or greed: “I have known men, for instance, who for years have voted squarely against their interests.” Politics is treated as a sporting event, with voters lined up on opposing sides, and their need to see themselves as winners may turn out to be their unlikely salvation: “They tend to back their country like they back their local team: They have a fanatical desire to win; yelling is their forte; and if things go badly, they are inclined to sack the coach.”Alec Nevala-Lee is the author of “Astounding: John W.
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We gradually discover that Kohler — who keeps a trunk of Nazi memorabilia hidden under his porch — is drawn to the Hitler era because it reveals the unspeakable truth about his own soul.
As a young man, he studied in Germany, and on Kristallnacht, he was so swept up by the fury that he hurled a brick at the window of a Jewish grocery store.
As he said of his most ambitious novel: “I wrote ‘The Tunnel’ out of the conviction that no race or nation is better than any other, and that no nation or race is worse; that the evil men do every day far outweighs the good.”Kohler, its narrator, is a 50-year-old professor of history at a thinly disguised version of Purdue University, where Gass himself taught for more than a decade.
As the novel opens, he has just completed a book, “Guilt and Innocence in Hitler’s Germany,” that he’d once hoped would be his masterpiece.
Tomas can’t understand why Gabe doesn’t want to be involved in this life.
Gabe, meanwhile, ashamed of his family’s heritage, feels he doesn’t belong in America.
After brooding over his actions, he concludes that violence is an eruption of disappointment — the attacker hurts those whom he sees as unfairly advantaged, even if it costs him everything.
Kohler connects this irrational longing for revenge to the Holocaust, as well as to a distinctly American bitterness caused by “an implicit promise broken, the social contract itself,” which deprives its victims of the happiness that they had seen as an inalienable right.