September 1940, Sebastian Sanzinger is a fighter pilot in the German Luftwaffe stationed on the French coast in the middle of the Battle of Britain. Since he was a small boy Sebastian has had a dream of becoming one of the aviator heroes that featured in the newspapers of his childhood. And so, despite his own lack of conviction in the party line, he is now part of one of Nazi Germany’s most ideologically pure and high-pressured armies, where anything that could be construed as cowardice would inevitably have dire consequences.
The only thing that sustains Sebastian is the thought of his fiancée, Anna, and their forthcoming wedding. That, and the Pervitin, a methamphetamine being handed out like candy to the soldiers. During another highly dangerous yet routine flight, the engine of his Messerschmidt 110 fails, and Sebastian is forced to turn back. But when questions are asked, the answers are not as clear as Sebastian would have liked, and everything he has worked so hard for, including keeping his secrets, is jeopardised.
POLTERABEND is a fast-paced and unflinching novel about a young man who sinks ever so deep into degradation, both as a man and as a citizen of the state. It is a war novel, about the compromises demanded for survival, the oppressive power of fear, and a reminder that hindsight is impossible while history is still being written — a topic that seems timelier than ever.
Moving in the realm of war classics such as The Hunters in its attention to detail and claustrophobic atmosphere, or if Catch 22 was written with more pathos rather than satire, Bengt Ohlsson offers up one of his strongest novels to date.