Review: The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell

by Rebeca on March 15, 2009

My review of The Kindly Ones appeared on the Internet Review of books. Below is the opening paragraph: 

THE KINDLY ONES 
By Jonathan Littell (translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell) 
992 pp. Harper $29.95

Oh my human brothers, let me tell you how it happened. I am not your brother, you’ll retort, and I don’t want to know. And it is certainly true that this is a bleak story, but an edifying one too, a real morality play, I assure you. You might find it a bit long — a lot of things happened, after all—but perhaps you’re not in too much of a hurry; with a little luck you’ll have some to spare. Toccata, The Kindly Ones

This intriguing opening paragraph is how Jonathan Littell in his controversial behemothThe Kindly Ones lures readers into the abysmal world of Dr. Maximilien Aue, the book’s narrator. Aue, an unrepentant Nazi bureaucrat, takes his audience on a journey back through history to the most miserable places— Babi Yar, Stalingrad, and Auschwitz—and reflects about his past as a young man before the war and as an SS officer, reasoning with his readers that if he was able to commit atrocities in the name of country and duty, weren’t they capable as well?

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