In an interview, Jonathan Littell said of the novel and his protagonist Max Aue, “I was aiming not for plausibility, but for truth. Novelistic truth is different from historic or sociological truth.” Does he achieve his goal? As a portrait of a perpetrator and his motivations, does the novel ring true for you?
Archive for the ‘Reading Group Guide Questions’ Category
Our weekly question for readers of The Kindly Ones:
The Kindly Ones is told from the viewpoint of an educated Nazi officer. What does this narrative viewpoint offer that other novels on the subject may not?
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?
On each Friday for the next two months we will be posting a question for readers of The Kindly Ones. We welcome your responses to each question.
Bernhard Schlink’s internationally bestselling novel, The Reader, spoke to the question of guilt among Germans—especially the second generation, the children of the war and the Holocaust. If you have read the book or seen the movie, what insights did it offer you about the ordinary Germans who perpetrated these crimes? How might that influence how you approach a book like The Kindly Ones?