Archive for February, 2009

An “odious stunt” or a “masterpiece”?

February 26, 2009

The Kindly Ones, like any substantial work of art, takes risks and causes deep emotional reactions. We anticipated a wide array of reviews on both ends of the spectrum.

The New York Times reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, wrote a highly critical review of the book, here.  Kakutani says: “The novel’s gushing fans…seem to have mistaken perversity for daring, pretension for ambition, an odious stunt for contrarian cleverness.”

A much different take on the book was posted by Michael Korda on The Daily Beast. “A brilliant Holocaust novel…A world-class masterpiece of astonishing brutality, originality, and force…I read it without pausing for breath, so powerful and terrifying was its portrayal of Nazi Germany, and of the Holocaust.”

And, as seen in the previous post on this blog,  there are several positive reviews from the UK as well.

This book will arouse great passion, and we hope that you will take a look and pick up a copy to decide for yourself. And once you have read it, come back to this blog and join the debate.

Reviews are in from the UK

February 23, 2009

Early reviews are starting to flow in.  Here is a group of very thorough reviews from the UK:

‘Littell has been very faithful to real events: his research is impressive. Where Littell is particularly strong, both in historical terms and as an integral part of his novel, is in his depiction of the Nazi and SS bureaucracy, with their rival departments, each with its own viewpoint and ethos… It is a great achievement to have made this horrific tale recounted by such a profoundly unsympathetic character so gripping. Littell is far better qualified than most to engage in such a dangerous enterprise. Having spent several years working with victims in Chechnya, Sarajevo and Africa, and having encountered a number of mass murderers, he uses this experience to explore the motivation and psychology of such killers. It is an area of vital importance to modern historians, but they are restricted by a comparative lack of hard evidence […] The author rightly refuses all suggestions that it should be made into a film, despite its great cinematic potential. It will therefore remain what it is: a great work of literary fiction, to which readers and scholars will turn for decades to come.’

Antony Beevor, The Times, ‘Book of the Week’
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/fiction/article5772123.ece

‘Notwithstanding the controversial subject matter, this is an extraordinarily powerful novel that leads the stunned reader through extremes of both realism and surrealism on an exhausting journey through some of the darkest recesses of European history.

Jason Burke, The Observer
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/feb/22/history-holocaust-books-jonathan-littell

‘Some critics praised Les Bienveillantes for its refreshing ambition and realism, others dismissed it as sensationalist. But everybody was talking about it […] erudite, pitiless and mesmerising

Donald Morrison, Financial Times
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/d67369d4-fedf-11dd-b19a-000077b07658.html

First Reviews

February 20, 2009

The Kindly Ones tends to elicit strong reactions–both on the positive and negative ends of the spectrum.

Two early online reviews are a case in point.  Here is a very positive review by Biff Bam Bop:  “The Kindly Ones is a magnificent modern novel that deserves immediate recognition and canonization; it redefines the war novel and takes language and the dissemination of ideas to a league on par with Joyce, Borges, Pynchon, Proust, and Tolstoy.”

Whereas The Complete Review wrote:  “The book is readable, though there seems little good reason to bother. It is beyond comprehension why it has gotten as much attention as it has.”

As more reviews come in we will note the divergent views on this book.

Welcome

February 18, 2009

Welcome to the conversation blog for the book The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell. We will have more content for you soon, but please do read the excerpt we’ve provided and let us know what you’ve heard about the book and if you are interested in reading it.