Better a Living Dog
Presses de la Cité
Number of pages
***Full English translation available***
Better a Living Dog*, which follows the prison lives of three Nazis after their sentencing at the Nuremberg Trials, was published to great acclaim in English in 1967. This compelling novel is brought back in a worthy new edition in France.
The three prison inmates, once important dignitaries of the Third Reich, have no names, only numbers, but are nonetheless recognizable: Number 1 bears a strong resemblance to Albert Speer, architect of the Third Reich; Number 5 is mostly likely Buldar von Shirach, leader of the Hitler Youth; and Number 7 must be Rudolf Hess, the closest to Hitler and the least guilt-stricken of them all.
Desperately alone, with only a quarter of an hour allowed each month for visitors, they talk to themselves—displaying little remorse about their horrific crimes; keep journals of their impressions of their new lives; and observe each other with mistrust. In turn, they are carefully observed by prison guards, known as A, B, C, and D, who represent the four powers of the occupation: Russia, America, Britain, and France. The prison is also unnamed but recognizable; it is Spandau, demolished in 1987 after the death of its last prisoner, Rudolf Hess. The prisoners, however, are truly prisoners of the memories of what they did, sharing time they served as mass executioners for Number Zero—Hitler.
* The title is from Ecclesiastes: “Better a living dog than a dead lion.”
Jean Anglade :
Jean Anglade is one of France’s most prolific contemporary writers. Since his first novel was published in 1952, he has published over 90 books, including L’immeuble Taub (Gallimard, 1956), winner of the Prix Populiste, and La Foi et la montagne (Robert Laffont, 1962), winner of the Prix des Librairies.