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Les Bienveillantes

Genocide of the Jews Eichmann Himmler Göring Speer Heydrich Höss even Hitler himself play a role in Max's story An intense and hallucinatory historical epic The Kindly Ones is also a morally challenging read It holds a mirror up to humanity and the reader cannot look awa The Kindly Ones is an unsentimental journey to the darkest side of the human his

Summary Les Bienveillantes

Named one of the 100 Best Books of the Decade by The Times of London Oh my human brothers let me tell you how it happened A former Nazi officer Dr Maximilien Aue has reinvented himself many years after the war as a middle class family man and factory owner in France An inte Lugging this gigantic book around from Omaha to Minneapolis to Dubai to Chicago b

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Llectual steeped in philosophy literature and classical music he is also a cold blooded assassin and the consummate bureaucrat Through the eyes of this cultivated yet monstrous man we experience in disturbingly precise detail the horrors of the Second World War and the Nazi It Begins and Ends in Bad PoliticsIt is possible for human beings to justify all

About the Author: Jonathan Littell

Robert Littell also resident in France and who authored numerous spy novels.

10 thoughts on “Les Bienveillantes

  1. says:

    “Please mein Herr shoot the children cleanly”― Jonathan Littell The Kindly OnesSuch a fiercely compelling novel one of the most evil stories ever told I had to listen to the audio book while taking my walks and let all the evil from the novel run down my legs and out the bottom of my feet; so much evil thus my initial reluctance to write a review and highly recommend However the writing is excellent and the insights on human nature history and culture numerousThe first person narrator starts his story by telling us nowadays his head begins to rage with the roar of a crematorium that when he is at a bar he pictures someone entering with a shotgun and blasting away; that when he is watching a film in a theater he imagines a live grenade under the seats; that when he is among dozens of happy families on a pleasant Sunday afternoon attending a festival in the town suare he sees a car filled with explosives blowing up turning the festivities into unending carnage blood and guts everywhere groan screams pitiful cries filling the air and then a long harrowing silence and emptiness for the survivorsSuch are his thoughts since as he also tells us he is a veritable memory machine unceasingly manufacturing memories whenever he has the time to think Thus he discovers when he once took a leave of absence from his responsibilities as manager of a lace factory he can’t be left alone too long to thinkSo Little’s novel has Maximilien Aue recounting memories in the spaces between his normal round of work and family recounting memories as a man in his mid fifties currently living in 1970s France And what is the focus of his memories? Back when he was a young man an Untersturmführer that is a Nazi SS Lieutenant living through the bitter cold and mass killings at the Russian Front the slaughter of the concentration camps the murders he committed with both his own pistol or his own hands the perversions of his personal life and violence of his family life all recounted and reported in chilling detail in a narrative voice unflinchingly calculating and as cold and as hard as steel say the steel of an abandoned tank in subzero January As a good number of readers have remarked once finishing this thousand pager not an easy read in many respects a downright harrowing and horrifying read Once read never forgottenRather than the killings slaughter perversions and other violations of humanity in Max’s waking life I will synopsize four of the Nazi SS officer’s vivid intense dreamsONE Max is on a high cliff watching a procession of gondolas glide down a river he clearly sees his gorgeous identical twin sister sitting cross legged her long flowing black hair falling over her perfectly shaped breasts Sidebar in real life Max is sexual infatuated and romantically in love with Una his identical twin sister Max shouts her name many times She raises her head and their eyes meet At this point Max feels violent stomach cramps undoes his pants and suats down but instead of shit real live bees spiders and scorpions gush out his anus He screams out and then turns his head and sees identical twin young boys staring at him in silenceTWO Max is gliding at different levels high up in the sky looking down almost like a camera than a human looking down at a huge city set out on a uniform grid seeing thousands and thousands of blue eyed men and women and children faceless moving mechanically through birth growth adulthood and death creating a perfect euilibrium which reminds Max of what an ideal concentration camp would be likeTHREE In a dark bedroom Max sees a tall beautiful woman in a long white dress He recognizes the woman is his sister She suffers uncontrollable convulsions and diarrhea black shit oozes through her white dress causing Max to experience great disgust and nauseaFOUR Max exchanges cloths with his sister Una he putting on her dress she putting on his uniform He sits in her chair at her dressing table and then Una carefully makes up his face combing his hair applying lipstick Una then straps on an ebony phallus After an intense session of intertwining like snakes Max rests on the floor and says he is her sister and she is her brother to which Una replies that you are my sister and I am your brotherOf course we could envision what a psychoanalyst either a Freudian or a Jungian or an analyst from any other school would make of Max’s dreams Let me simply conclude by saying that anybody wishing to read this novel must be prepared for the many brutal cruel and murderous scenes of Max’s waking life reminding me of the hell scenes of the artist Hieronymus Bosch Again one of the most evil tales ever told

  2. says:

    Lugging this gigantic book around from Omaha to Minneapolis to Dubai to Chicago back to Omaha I began to uestion why I was reading it It's nearly a thousand pages long; it's poorly translated; it was apparently edited by a monkey dying of Ebola; it has paragraphs that run on for pages and pages and pages; for some reason there is no indentation for dialogue so you're left guessing which indistinguishable character is saying which facilestiltedclichedboring thing; the translation is imprecise; and the overuse of the semicolon is rampant In the end the unasked uestion why are you reading this? is answered by a phrase provided me by the US Supreme Court's case law on obscenity it appealed to my prurient interest The Kindly Ones is an ambitious wreck It's a hot mess but with aspirations It's opening line Oh my human brothers let me tell you how it happened smacks of Homer Indeed right up until the penultimate chapter I was halfway enjoying it The novel told in first person my SS officer Maximilien Aue attempts to encompass the whole horror of the Holocaust Like a sadistic bloodstained Forrest Gump Aue bounces from einsatz aktions in the Caucuses there is a grim depiction of the massacre at Babi Yar to the winter hell of Stalingrad to the concentration camps of Auschwitz and finally to Hitler's bunker and the twilight of the gods I heard of this book by way of its controversy It was a big hit in France which should forever lay to rest any lingering belief that the French know anything about art Here in America it was severely panned by none other than Michiko Kakutani When she described its unsavory elements murder incest sodomy unrelenting gore I knew I had to purchase this work immediatelyAt first through about 850 pages I thought the controversy was a whole lot of nothing Yes there were some graphic passages especially dealing with the einsatzkommandos slaughtering thousands of Jews and other undesirables by firing suad Yet this is what good historical fiction does it takes us to that place in time In this instance that place and time is unimaginably dark but that doesn't mean that some light shouldn't be shed I thought the recreation of the Belorussian slaughter was powerful I also thought there were some clever moments as when Aue meets a Caucasian peasant who has been gifted with the ability to have all memories at once The peasant leads Aue to the mountain summit where Aue is supposed to kill him For the most part though the book was and I hate to say the word dull Hannah Arendt was right evil is banal The book is filled with non characters There are names a veritable who's who of Nazi Germany with cameos by Himmler Kaltenbrunner Speer Eichmann and Mengele For the most part though they remain names an undifferentiated mass There is an fascinating bit here and there such as a dinner party with Eichmann or a grouse hunt with Speer but they are lost in a sea of never ending crap prose There are lengthy turgid passages on Caucasian languages and a dense meandering conversation about the similarities between Bolshevism and Fascism Also there are endless mentions of poop Its smell; Aue's need to evacuate his bowels; detailed descriptions of said evacuation etc I've never been exposed to such scatological descriptions and hope never to be again Still nothing too loopy Sure Aue is in love with his twin sister with whom he had an incestuous relationship but this dark angle is not dwelt upon in relation to how much Aue dwells on poop And he also may or may not have killed his mother but this is just soap drama I started to think that Michiko might have been wrong Where is the sick depraved stuff that lured me in and just to editorialize a little I feel that many of these book reviews are very regressive when it comes to sexuality; just because Aue is a homosexual does not make him deviant; there is an underlying whiff of homophobia in many of the pans I've read Then at page 865 I came to that chapter Suffice it to say it involves a lot of auto asphyxiation masturbation and defecation I could've done without that Moreover this all occurs while the Russians are encircling Berlin With the whole nation collapses Aue manages to get vacation time so he can spend some time with himself That stretches credulity In fact the whole endgame of this enormous book is terrible Everything falls apart There isn't a single believable instance Anthony Beevor I'm surprised at you for suggesting this book It's not just that Aue is led to Hitler's bunker and does something completely ridiculous it's that in the final pages all the main characters somehow meet each other Really? The Russians are pouring into the city bombs are bursting mortar rounds are exploding buildings are burning bullets are whistling yet everyone manages to come together for a final bloody denouement This utter collapse the same malady affecting The Dark Knight really ruined things for me For as I said up till that time this book has a lot of interesting things to offer There are vivid nightmarish descriptions that would make Dante proud There is a strangely beautiful ghastly scene in which Aue goes swimming in the Volga outside Stalingrad The swift current created whirlpools that soon carried me away under the ice All kinds of things were passing by me which I could clearly make out in this green water horses whose feet the current was moving as if they were galloping fat and almost flat fish bottom feeders Russian corpses with swollen faces entwined in their curious brown capesAbove me the ice formed an opaue screen but the air lasted in my lungs I wasn't worried and kept swimming passing sunken barges full of handsome young men sitting in rows their weapons still in their hands little fish threading through their hair agitated by the current Then slowly in front of me the water grew lighter columns of green light plunged down from holes in the ice became a forest then melded into each other as the blocks of ice drifted farther apart There are parts of this book that reminded me of the sweep of Herman Wouk's The Winds of War and War and Remembrance if those great books had been written by Cormac McCarthy Then there are parts of this book that remind me of Team America World Police It's an interesting book and I mean interesting in the Confucian sense There are incredible moments some of which I've mentioned others I can only note in passing such as gripping scenes set during the bombing of Berlin There are moments of pure inanity as Aue a self righteous pretentious preening gasbag holds forth on various topics in his grating solipsistic manner the tragedy of Aue not being able to fornicate with his sister tends to pale next to the murder of 6 million Jews Then there are moments of sheer weirdness such as a dream seuence in which Rudolf Hoess commandant of Auschwitz masturbates next to Aue's bed I don't know why though perhaps this could be a thesis topic if I ever go for my PhD in English I guess the best praise I can give this book is that it got a reaction from me Which ain't nothing

  3. says:

    I felt like abandoning this just about every day At times it irritated me at others it bored me My stubborn nature finally won out though and I ploughed through all its 975 pages It's always going to be an act of hubris to believe you can explain the Nazis The Kindly Ones purports to offer an insight into the transformation of an ordinary young man into a Nazi monster Early on Max Aue the narrator an SS Obersturmbannfürher makes a case that all of us might have done what the Germans did in their place that we are mistaken to believe that what the Nazis did was some sort of uniue phenomenon confined to Germans in the middle of the 20th century First off I'm not sure most of us do believe that We might not believe the scale of the Nazi death machine could be repeated but racial hatred is still a political factor in modern life Fervent nationalism a disenfranchised underclass an economic crisis and a handy racial scapegoat are the first prereuisites for a fascist state Many countries are presently vulnerable There are still plenty of potential Nazis in the world and probably always will be Nor do I think most of us delude ourselves that we would have actively opposed the Nazis were we living under the terrifying close surveillance of the Gestapo However there's a big difference between for example turning a blind eye and zealously reporting anyone you don't like to the Gestapo; an even bigger difference between serving as a soldier in the regular army and executing naked women and children by the side of the ditches The author however tells us all are eually culpable that there's no difference between a member of the Einsatzgruppen and the railway worker who changed the tracks for the freight cars With this logic the airline employees who sold the 911 terrorists their tickets were no less responsible for the deaths in the twin towers than the terrorists themselves Of course the Nazis held to a mantra of collective responsibility so given our narrator is an unrepentant Nazi we can perhaps forgive him his trite philosophising But seeing as Littell begins with this idea of collective responsibility you assume he will have as his narrator a kind of everyman who will bear his theory out that we are all potential Nazis Before long though we find out our narrator's pivotal childhood memory is of engaging in anal sex with his twin sister at the age of twelve I stopped here to ask myself how many people there are currently in the world who have known this experience I concluded less probably than people born with three eyes Max Hue is like some twisted adolescent fantasy character conceived after immersing oneself in the complete works of the Maruis De Sade In fact twisted sexuality is often a subplot with the suspicion that the author is implying that Nazism was some kind of symptom of sexual deviation Max Hue is a closet homosexual; he's also an intellectual and an aesthete In other words everything the Nazis loathe He could hardly be less representative of a typical Nazi I never once understood why the author chose to make his narrator so preposterously unbelievable Probably the one thing he did do well for me was to delve into the dissociative ingenuity of the human brain But dissociative identity disorder was an inevitable conseuence of Nazi barbarity rather than as Littell implies its cause I could have got past this misgiving about the foundations of his central reasoning if the novel hadn't very uickly showed innumerable sins of crude artistry Strip this book of its reportage its non fiction and what remains is a framework of gothic kitsch A man as a child engages in anal sex with his twin sister idolises his father for no apparent reason later murders his mother and stepfather is pursued throughout the war by a couple of preposterous Keystone cops who are still intent on bringing him to justice when the Russians are advancing down a neighbouring Berlin street It's often like bad slapstick comedy which Littell perhaps acknowledges when towards the end his narrator takes a fervent dislike to Hitler's physiognomy and instead of accepting the medal from his führer sinks his teeth into Adolf's nose and then speculates why history has remained unaware of this event A whole section is devoted to Aue's sexual fantasies In a novel of nearly a thousand pages the last thing we need is an endless repetitive cataloguing of all the ways Aue comes up with to desecrate his sister's home He made his point and then went on making it for forty odd pages Then there's the dialogue The dialogue is consistently bad Even straightforward exchanges are heavy handed and bereft of fluidity Often a character is drafted in with an encyclopaedic knowledge of a section's pertinent subject which allows Littell to write long unbroken treatises in the form of thoroughly unconvincing dialogue There's the feeling the author wants to cram in absolutely everything he's read about the war The most impressive thing about it for me was the uantity of research that went into its construction But this is also one of its problems because with its endless lists of SS officials and departments it often reads like a non fiction book with a kind of Forest Gump narrator who always manages to gatecrash every pivotal moment of Nazi history There's little artistry in the way the research is fed into the novel He's there at the Babi Yar massacres he turns up at Auschwitz and of course he finally makes it to the Hitler bunker Also I often found its voyeurism disturbing than the atrocities themselves He's been accused of being a pornographer of violence and I'd agree with that and add to it a pornographer of bodily functions Another massive problem is the punctuation I don't think I've ever read a book with such shoddy punctuation Paragraphs continue on for pages with little rhyme or reason Sometimes sentences too At the end of the day you have to ask yourself how well did this novel succeed in its intention of providing an insight into the Nazi psyche? I'm afraid I didn't buy into Max Hue at all At times you might say it's a brilliantly researched book of non fiction; every time however the fiction in it asserts itself I kept feeling Littell is a long way from being a first rate novelist

  4. says:

    So what's the most atrocious thing you've seen? Man of courseThe Kindly Ones polarized both readers and critics all over the world They argued on its literary values and scandalous content pornocaust or holokitsch were amongst epithets felt poised between admiration for the gigantic work Littell done and themes he researched and final product and message it delivered The genre itself confounded almost everyone was it a history novel or uasi document a literary fiction or fictionalized story? And autoportrait of Nazi official and aesthete was widely discussed I can’t say anything new or revealing on its subject so only some words about how this reader feels with this book The novel stuns with verve and panache bewilders with erudition and literateness overwhelms with magnitude of information names and facts The author had to dig through hundreds of historical documents up Sometimes effect feels fascinating especially deliberations on the vision of national socialism or motivations of the narrator of the novel then again horrifying with descriptions of mass murders or concentration camps and at times just fatiguing due to neverending reports full of names and military ranks It strikes with enormity of violence and cruelty with graphic depiction of every crime imaginable and pornographic and scatological content and its matter of fact narrative comes almost as a shock Combining sex with violence or precisely sexuality with Nazism is nothing new or original in literature or film William Styron did it in Sophie’s choice and Lucchino Visconti in his stunning masterpiece The Damned I prefer the Polish title Zmierzch Bogów refering to Wagner’s opera What makes this book uniue and shocking and what sometimes is its the biggest flaw is the figure of narrator Maximilian Aue To establish a murderer main protagonist to make us read his testimony hear his thoughts acknowledge that he escaped in a way justice was clever though rather dangerous task At first everything starts rather innocently I hope the ironic undertone can be sensed Max is sensitive and kind of fragile man We do not know at this point how deeply damaged he is how unstable and how twisted his family issues are He doesn’t like the idea of extermination but since Germans and Germany comes to him first thus he succumbs to orders But he doesn’t approve unnecessary humiliation and cruelty towards people that were to be killed On Ukraine he not only observes killings but also as any other officer has to participate in it what effects a nervous breakdown And it only keeps getting worse from now Max is well educated enamoured with literature and music he uotes from memory ancient philosophers and yet is dilligent and amenable cog in machine a valuable member of horrendous system Maximilian Aue seems to confuse ethics with aesthetics but by no means is only bureaucratic murderer He can in one breath talk about wisdom of ancient authors and beauty of human well male's body about love and music and at the same time being able to participate at executions As he admits himself at some point while standing over graves of murdered Jews I was haunted by the passion for the absolute and the transcending of limits And this duality makes him interesting narrator In The Kindly Ones can be spotted uite dinstinct references to The Oresteia a killing of mother and stepfather an incestuous relationship with sister and the title outright appeals to Erinyes the gracious ones translated also as kindly ones incarnation of vengeance There were criticisms that by employing the ancient idea of fate Littell intended to justify Max’ or in wider perspective German deeds and omissions or lessen his crimesThe novel explores acts that were done not by madmen or lunatics but by technocrats lawyers economists and administration Littell examines damages done to ordinary soldiers that had to face with mass extermination especially in the first days of war tries to draw a line between them and psychopaths and degenerate individuals relishing these deeds Through Max' eyes allows us to experience war at Ukraine Russia and Poland leads us through battle of Stalingrad hell of Auschwitz Birkenau to final days in Berlin He shows the birth of the idea of Final Solution and its bringing into existence He depictures Holocaust as a kind of enterprise a uniue project that had to be done and gives us almost technical instruction of genocide Report of Max is coldly precise and detailed then again hallucinatory and delirious but always intense and powerful The novel is truly gruesome and though I can’t say for example the slaughter in Babi Jar ravine was alien to me yet the description made me sick Max makes his remorseless confession many years after the war ended regrets that’s for children as his colleague Eichmann would say and what strikes me the most is his statement that we are not better men than he was merely luckier to live in different times and not forced to make his choices In a way he makes us almost his accomplices who only by a bit of luck could avoid his fate I find this revelation uite disturbing Max is not trying to play a martyr or victim to ask for our forgiviness no he wants our sympathy and understanding for who or what he was And it's even disuieting And thought provoking I do not regret anything I did my work that’s all; as for my family problems which I might also talk about they concern no one but me; and as for the rest I probably did go a little far toward the end but by that point I was no longer entirely myself I was off balance and anyhow the whole world was toppling around me I wasn’t the only one who lost his head admit it

  5. says:

    It Begins and Ends in Bad PoliticsIt is possible for human beings to justify all behaviour no matter how irrational and cruel Because this is so some philosophers justify their view that moral norms must lie outside of human control that there must be a God who knows what good behaviour is This justification is also irrational and freuently just as cruel As for example when the philosophers and theologians of Nazism preached radical anti Semitism based on universal genetic imperatives of tribal competition Inhumanity therefore is what human beings are good at As one of Littell's characters has it there is no such thing as inhumanity There is only humanity and humanity This from a man whose job it was to kill wounded German soldiers who were of no further usefulnessNevertheless irrationality and cruelty have to be arrived at incrementally One's political and legal culture cannot be radically altered too suddenly lest irrationality and cruelty become obvious and rejected as such It takes time to create new not to say contradictory social attitudes War is a tried and true method for cultural change War is preceded by exclusionary politics to prepare the collective psyche War then has its own inevitable agenda of escalating brutality The aftermath of war reuires its own victims These are supplied by another sort of exclusionary politics The definition of justice a reliable barometer of social norms invariably changes to accommodate the times Littell has Adolph Eichmann summarise the situation politics change peopleThe Kindly Ones is a fictional exploration of the process of radical cultural and political change in Germany from the 1930's to the 1950's The protagonist and narrator Max Aue is a gay SS officer This irony is compounded by the fact that he is a lawyer and classically educated into a culture of civility and reflective empathy He writes like a German Vassily Grossman not to defend but to merely describe his actions and motivations Slipping slowly from unconcern to acceptance to assimilation to diseased monster Max isn't German or inherently psychotic or evil; he is Everyman It is as Everyman that Max plays a role in the Final Solution for the Judaism of Eastern Europe in fomenting 'retribution' of Jews by Poles and Ukrainians in the Einzatsgruppen whose job it was to murder all Jews found in Russian territory conuered by the Wehrmacht and in the preparation and supply of victims for the death camps The scenes depicted are well rehearsed in many other books on the Holicaust Littell's take is innovative only because it is created from the point of view of the murderers capturing their experiences and mental states as the war is prepared for progresses and ends What they see is the terror of their own lives in the dystopia they have created Meditating briefly on Auschwitz Max muses Wasn’t the camp itself with all the rigidity of its organization its absurd violence its meticulous hierarchy just a metaphor a reductio ad absurdum of everyday life? The camps are the source of a new German culture a breeding ground for mental illnesses and sadistic deviationsMax knows he is participating in a war like none before when the State is democratized —then all of a sudden war becomes total and terrible Only modern democracy is capable of the atrocities of war on a scale which would not have been tolerated in any other form of government The democratic state has powers of coercion over its own citizens that could never be claimed by any monarchDemocracy also possesses the cultural force necessary to turn evil into good through purely social sanctions The murderer of wounded soldiers for example killed people or had them killed so he’s Evil; but within himself he was a good man to those close to him indifferent to all others and what’s one who respected the law What do we ask of the individual in our civilized democratic cities?Judging by the evidence of the 20th century democracy uses its powers freuently and with less cause than any other form of government Democracy inhibits conscience and promotes evil just as effectively as the alternatives In fact by legitimatising greed for reputation and ambition for power democracy provides a welcoming framework for their development This is one of the principle messages of the book A message as relevant in the age of Trump and Putin as it was in the age of Hitler and Stalin There may be no Cosmic Organizer but there should be at least a few resistors who can stand against the flow of insanity that pops up from time to time in democracies As Max knows The past is never over

  6. says:

    I live I do what can be done it's the same for everyone I am a man like other men I am a man like you I tell you I am just like you Jonathan Littell The Kindly Ones This is a hard book to review It is like walking out of a David Lynch movie and feeling brain raped by the artist How exactly to you attempt to explore the depths of Nazi Germany without feeling dark abused and sick afterwards? From conversations I've had with those who've hated this novel and British critics I've read there is far too much shit incest anal sex and death Certainly But how exactly do you descend into the depths of Nazi hell without pushing through gouts of madness clumps of wickedness and wads of depravity? You don'tLittell uses Obersturmbannführer Maximilien Aue a cultured SS Zelig to explore how an unrepentant rationalist a bureaucrat an intellectual could participate in defend and justify the extermination of a race Aue doesn't wrestle any Jewish angels No he wrestles himself his country his ideology his sanity The slow decent of mad Max is a way for Littell to explore the absurd and tortured NAZI self justifications for their actions Littell also uses Max to incriminate us all as a species How close are we to those in Germany during WWII? We like to think we are better moral kinder respectable innocent Are we? Or are we simply blessed by chance because we don't find ourselves surrounded by madness wickedness and final solutions? Does circumstance and chance really make us better? Does the fact that we find ourselves by fate's mad roll distant from both victim AND victimizer give us any room to think we exist in a field that really separates us from the horrors of Germany or Nigeria or Sudan or Afghanistan or Somolia or Serbia or Cambodia or Burma or North Korea?Again this is not a novel for the faint of heart or my mother It doesn't have a happy ending Hell it doesn't have a happy beginning middle or single clean signature It is a cold book sewn together with sick corruptions musical madness and omnipresent death It is a dance of evil a fugue of plagues a bile filled nightmare on every page Yes I'm glad I read it but I'm also sure as f#k glad it is finished

  7. says:

    The Kindly Ones is an unsentimental journey to the darkest side of the human history Fascism turned the Germany into a factory of death And every factory must have an effective technology So any technology must be perfected and the technology of murder as wellKilling was a terrible thing; the reaction of the officers was a good proof of that even if they didn’t all draw the conseuences of their own reactions; and the man for whom killing was not a terrible thing killing an armed man as well as an unarmed man and an unarmed man as well as a woman and her child was nothing but an animal unworthy of belonging to a community of men But it was possible that this terrible thing was also a necessary thing; and in that case we had to submit to this necessity Our propaganda repeated over and over again that the Russians were Untermenschen sub humans; but I refused to believe thatThe novel is an uncompromising story of fascism – starting with its bloodthirsty snarl at humanity and ending with its agony and rigor mortis Ideology can pitilessly transform an ordinary man into a killing machine and use it until this machine breaksBut even in such inhumanly perfect society as fascist state there are corruption intrigues hatred and fear and they keep destroying the power from within And the rest of humankind started destroying fascism from without“So what’s the most atrocious thing you’ve seen?” He waved his hand “Man of course”—“I meant medically”—“Medically atrocious things don’t interest me in the least On the other hand one does see extraordinary curiosities which completely revise our notions of what our poor bodies can endure”—“What for example?”—“Well a man will catch a tiny piece of shrapnel in the calf that will slice through the peroneal artery and he’ll die in two minutes still standing his blood emptied into his boot without his noticing Yet another man might take a bullet through the head from one temple to the other and will get up on his own to walk to the first aid post”—“What an insignificant thing we are” I commented—“Precisely”War is a most atrocious evil and it is capable to lower human being to the primordial animal state so humans become monsters beasts and cattle

  8. says:

    Rating 3 of fiveThe Publisher Says Oh my human brothers let me tell you how it happened So begins the chilling fictional memoir of Dr Maximilien Aue a former Nazi officer who has reinvented himself many years after the war as a middle class family man and factory owner in FranceMax is an intellectual steeped in philosophy literature and classical music He is also a cold blooded assassin and the consummate bureaucrat Through the eyes of this cultivated yet monstrous man we experience in disturbingly precise detail the horrors of the Second World War and the Nazi genocide of the Jews During the period from June 1941 through April 1945 Max is posted to Poland the Ukraine and the Caucasus; he is present at the Battle of Stalingrad and at Auschwitz; and he lives through the chaos of the final days of the Nazi regime in Berlin Although Max is a totally imagined character his world is peopled by real historical figures such as Eichmann Himmler Goring Speer Heyrich Hoss and Hitler himselfA supreme historical epic and a haunting work of fiction Jonathan Littell's masterpiece is intense hallucinatory and utterly original Published to impressive critical acclaim in France in 2006 it went on to win the Prix Goncourt that country's most prestigious literary award and sparked a broad range of responses and uestions from readers How does fiction deal with the nature of human evil? How should a novel encompass the Holocaust? At what point do history and fiction come together and where do they separate?A provocative and controversial work of literature The Kindly Ones is a morally challenging read; it holds up a mirror to humanity and the reader cannot look awayMy Review The Kindly Ones is than a morally challenging read; it makes me feel deeply unclean I don't have any idea what I would do in the same circumstances as the author sets his protagonist into but I suspect I would have been this protagonist had the same things happened to me at the same ages Nowwell a 50 year old is a different creature than a 22 year old no matter that us 50ers want to think otherwiseI abandoned this book a library 14 day checkout at p364 Ivan and Max who is our protagonist are scuttling around looking for Croats and I ran aground when Feldgendarmen and ACHTUNG MINIEN occurred in close proximity I just could not endure one moment of German military terminology and I dislike the German language with sincere fervor and then there is the slickly sickly slimy Max with whom I can't bear to spend one eyeblink; but good lord people the amount I've already read would be a novel by itselfAs anyone who's ever read one of my reviews knows I don't do book reports The events of this book aren't in any way a surprise to you if you've been awake in the past year I can say though that anyone who wants to deny the existence of a Holocaust would do well to read this novel It feels like the events could not possibly be true No one could live through this perpetrator or not and face life as a sane being ever again So far as I am aware the German nation did not have a huge insanity problem after WWII so ipso facto there was no HolocaustLittell's story shows how well he understands the history of the factual Holocaust and his choice of a protagonist shows how well he understands human nature and its strengths It's a deeply disturbing book for that reason alone That a man could imagine this character could write about him in his own voice and with clarity precision and artistry is unsettling to my vision of authors as refiners of reality into truthIf Truth can contain this there is no safe place anywhereAnd there isn't This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 30 Unported License

  9. says:

    So the war The Second one Or is that the Second One? Do we capitalise all Things Pertaining to the War? I think it’s appropriate to capitalise when referring to the Greatest Atrocity in All of Mankind or if not appropriate respectful And people well people keep writing books about It That War That Pesky War This near 1000 page novel is the rambling testament of SS officer Dr Max Aue devoted Hauptsturmführer Captain later Standartenführer Major semi repentant monster and lunatic following his humble beginnings liuidating all non Aryans to his time uh liuidating all non AryansThe novel is written in a flat first person prose heavily factual with some surgical dissections of the narrator’s complex emotional life The breadth of research on display is outstanding Littell spent five years researching and less than a year writing the book and the reader gets swept along in these rhythmic flows of gruesome insider information—blandly descriptive horrors keep the reader going through shock acting as an unfortunate emotional catalyst Largely however the book is about the collapsing bureaucracy of the Nazi regime rendering absurd their illogical brand of single minded barbarism as a kind of Weltanschauung through cold unbiased factCritics of the book complain about the narrator’s obsession with excrement but excrement acts as an unpleasant metaphor for his disturbed mental state for the rotten world of wartime Europe—Max Aue might have murdered his mother and stepfather and still holds a torch for his sister whom he sodomised as a teenager This warped one way romance builds to a devastating pitch 900 pages in worth the wait where he falls into a perverse erotic fantasy merging his body to his sister’s by writhing in her bed sheets imagining himself back in the snug seat of his mother’s womb The suggestion being Max nor his colleagues should have ever left the womb or ever ceased being infantsPlus critics hate long novels They have to review four or five per week they can’t be doing with 1000 page monsters with conflicting moral messages This Novel About the War however is an absolutely breathtaking piece—a fresh and contentious addition to an already bursting market Sure it has its flaws suffocating marshes of micro detail and long dialogues between SS officers of an often tedious nature but the overall execution is coolly done as if JG Ballard had written about the War Oh hang on So if you have a spare 25 hours this week make this one a priority A modern classic? No But damn good

  10. says:

    The English translation of les Bienveillantes is a travesti All the sardonic irony and the disgust of the author for his protagonist is lost; imagine taking seriously the Blagojevich defence I am being punished for doing the right thing for the people who voted for meIt starts with the double entendres the word 'bienveillant' means 'kind' of course but it can also denote watchfulness or paternalism or 'meaning well' depending on the context when ambiguity is the book's medium; then it misses the nuances of mode tense and syntaxThere is indeed something pointlessly depraved and deeply wrong about this book its subject matter those ordinary people who could kiss their children goodnight and go to sleep with a clear conscience after spending each day doing hundreds of acts of degradation terrorizing torture and abject murder each one of these acts would have landed them in jail had they done it to an animal By eradicating Jews homosexuals insane homeless communists and handicapped they were just improving the gene poolWhat this book does is make it impossible for us to dismiss the nazis as inhuman monsters we have nothing in common with The torturers are all too human and that's why this book is so uncomfortably ambiguous And their lack of remorse is echoed in our society too not just by the KKK and their lynchings or by those who set to cure homosexuality with a baseball bat but also by those who advocate punishing the poor for their misfortune or segregate people for their sexual orientation the act itself is of course less despicable but the selfrighteousness is the sameIf you can't stand to look at that then indeed you have the power of closing the book and throwing it in the trash The rest of us are left with the gnawing uncertainty how much of a hatemonger am I? It's only a matter of degree not a difference in nature

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