Roll Up! Roll Up! is set in three different places: New York, Berlin and Stockholm, during an era that has been written about many times: when the early 1930ies utopian ideas are expressed in national socialism and racial ideologies. But it has never been told from this perspective: the four main characters are dwarves, or little people, as the term is today.
In the beginning we get to know Glauer and Ka, that work at the amusement park Luna Park on Coney Island in New York. It is brashy and sparkling around the cheap entertainment: in the miniature town Liliputia the little people humiliate themselves in tasteless pranks, and in the house of incubators premature babies are displayed in their glass cases. Austrian Glauer is longing to return to the cultivated Europe, where he is hoping to fulfill his dream about directing a serious theatre company. And Ka wants to tag along so she can elude and forget about the degrading medical examinations she has been subjected to, where the secret about her sex has been exposed and is attracting scientific interest.
They get hired as Christmas elves on a boat crossing the Atlantic, and in the capitol of cabarets, Berlin, they meet Nelly with the back pain and Verner, the smallest man alive. But it is the year 1933, Hitler has seized power and euthanasia programs are starting up. Violence and fear urge them to continue their journey. In a group with other mangy circus dwarves they reach Stockholm at the last minute. They have an invitation, and how could the amusement park with the beautiful name Gröna Lund (Green Grove) be anything but a haven?
Roll Up! Roll Up! is an upsetting novel. It tells the story about the vulnerability of constantly being looked at, and about shame. But maybe it is even more about friendship and the longing for a dignified life without classifications.
The novel is based on real events. In a post scriptum Lotta Lundberg writes about this background. More than 200 000 handicapped little people where murdered during the Hitler-era. In Sweden in 1935 a group called Glauers dwarves was performing at Gröna Lund, and a few years before that, some members from an African tribe was part of the sensational entertainment. As late as in the 1960ies people with different deformities was paraded at carnevals in Sweden.
Germany/Hoffman und Campe