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This book is a fictional account of the life of German film and theatre actor Werner Krauss, eponymous star of the classic silent film The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. Upon gaining worldwide recognition in this film, Krauss was co-opted into the Nazi hate campaign of the 1930s and 1940s. He featured in the vicious propaganda film Jud Suss, and he was complicit in giving anti-Semitic performances onstage, most notably as Shylock in Shakespeares The Merchant of Venice. The book focuses on three distinct eras in Krauss life: the struggling, exuberant actor of the 1920s; the philandering pragmatist of the 1930s; and the elderly, neurotic outcast of the 1940s. Despite his honourable intentions, Krauss was all-too-often undermined by his inability to say no to women, alcohol and the egregious Joseph Goebbels. In this fictional re-imagining of his life, Krauss motives and decisions are explored in an attempt to discover why he collaborated with the Nazis in the way that he did, as well as demonstrating the personal and political consequences of his actions. As someone who was influenced by the Nazi regime, and, in turn, influential in perpetuating their message, Krauss story tells the wider story of the role of the arts and media in Nazi Germany. Extensively researched, including contemporary news stories, archived film material, critical essays on Krauss and translated passages from his autobiography, Das Schauspiel Meines Lebens, this fictional reconstruction of Krauss life and career is preceded by a substantive Introduction by the author, setting the novel in the context of the genre of Holocaust fiction, emulating and reminiscent of Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin and Thomas Keneally's Schindler's Ark.
Gareth Watts is a lecturer in English at Richmond-upon-Thames College. He has written for radio, published poetry, reviews and short stories. This is his first book.