There are numerous books with controversial subject matter, material that some readers might find questionable or even objectionable. This has been the response of some early American critics of The Kindly Ones. Yet Jonathan Littell’s novel was a tremendous bestseller in Europe, where it received widespread critical acclaim and several top literary prizes.
What do you think accounts for this difference between the European and the early American reception of the book? How might having had the war and the Holocaust take place on one’s own soil affect a reader’s outlook? Imagine a novel about 9/11 from the terrorists’ point of view. How might readers on either “side” of this event react to such a book?