The Color Master
The Fake Nazi
“The Fake Nazi” is from Aimee Bender’s new collection THE COLOR MASTER (Doubleday), a NY Times notable book. Aimee Bender is the author of four other books, including, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, a NY Times Notable Book, and Willful Creatures, nominated by The Believer as one of the best books of 2005.
Bender’s short fiction has been published in Granta, GQ, Harper’s, Tin House, McSweeney’s, The Paris Review, and elsewhere, and can be heard on PRI’s This American Life and Selected Shorts. She has received two Pushcart prizes and her fiction has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in Los Angeles.
Bender said this about her piece: This story came from a font exercise. Whenever I’ve been extremely bored and stuck while writing, if desperate I go to the ‘font’ file on my computer. In it are little paragraphs riffing off font names, written, of course, in that font. Arial Narrow is an irritating busy-body. Helvetica a badass. Geneva is about Switzerland, rife with Swiss cliches (ie a lot of watches). And at the time, on my computer was a font named Hoefler.
I had about fifteen minutes left in my writing block of time, and I don’t let myself stop until the time is up, so I opened the file and wrote a few paragraphs, including one about Hoefler. The paragraph was about a man named Hans Hoefler who thought he was a Nazi but wasn’t. The story evolved over several years, but the core of it was there in that chunk, written in the low-to-the-ground Hoefler font itself. I didn’t expect it would ever turn into anything!
I’m very interested in guilt and where it lands: when we avoid taking it, when we scoop up too much of it. So that part of it was a natural progression of previous interests. The ending of the story, though, happened years later, after the story had long been developed past its font self.
Around that time, I was coming out of a divorce and so much felt upturned in my life all at once: the marriage had failed, the novel I’d been working on had failed, my closest friend and I were in a weird shift and the friendship wasn’t quite working; it was a difficult, dark time. I often felt like the floor was falling out from under me, and I remember wondering when I would feel joy next, what that might be. It seemed it had been a long time since I’d felt it.
Inside all the fear and struggle there was this tiny hint of curiosity, seeing that my life as I knew it had changed course dramatically and there was something exciting in that, too, once I could see straight. So I’m sure that all led, in part, into that last scene and moment and lines with the brother.