“Although The Kindly Ones is constructed like an airport potboiler, its scope, its intellectual sophistication, and its stately prose all point to Littell’s enormous literary ambition. His knowledge of the war, down to its most hidden bureaucratic crannies and its most private anguishes, is astonishing, particularly for an author who speaks no German.” More of the review here.
Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category
In his first essay, he points to how Littell’s experience working for an NGO in places such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chechnya, the Congo, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan is key to thinking about how genocide is portrayed in the book:
“I do not understand how one can simply neglect to talk about this aspect of Littell’s personal history—is it not the most basic background and most likely impulse for the writing of a novel about mass murder, a great deal of which was the result or the corollary of starvation? To ignore or pass over the novel’s overwhelming prevalence of malnutrition, hunger, and starvation in favor of some relatively isolated scenes of (nonetheless intense) violence is to miss an enormous part of the novel’s substance, meaning, intention, and effect.”
Adam Roberts over at The Valve-A Literary Organ is posting his reactions to each section of The Kindly Ones as he reads them. Several of his readers have posted comments. Take a look. This link is to his first post but he’s posted three more since then.
“The force and clarity with which Littell renders the physical realities of war and mass murder are simply astounding… The Kindly Ones is unmistakably the work of a profoundly gifted writer.” More by Lev Grossman at Time Magazine.
From Susan Rubin Suleiman at The Boston Globe:
“…if you’re like me, you will read it to the end with a mixture of fascination and disgust toward its narrator, and admiration for the author who created him… this novel gives us a comprehensive and historically accurate account of the Nazi genocide of the Jews…” More.
In a very interesting review posted at Haaretz.com, Ina Friedman writes:
“The Kindly Ones is a satire on the Nazi endeavor, a matter in itself so black and so exaggerated that one can be forgiven for missing the trick Littell is playing.
And like all satire worth its salt (think Voltaire or Swift), it plants a seed of suspicion that something of us may be mirrored here – that “in a given set of circumstances,” in Aue’s words, we too are capable of growing hardened and indifferent to what may once have seemed outrageous and of surrendering ourselves to the flow, that the arrogant Aue may have had a sliver of a point when he declared at the start that “this concerns you.” And we read on, and on, essentially in a quest to dispel those disturbing thoughts, without realizing, of course, that the degree to which we succeed is in inverse proportion to the degree we deserve to.” Read more.
Read about the polarizing debate about The Kindly Ones at USA Today.com.
For an amusing overview of reviews so far for Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones, take a look at this article at New York Magazine. Reviews are sorted into three categories: “Kindly,” “Mean,” and “Ambivalent.”
Reviewed by Peter Fritzsche (Department of History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), February, 2009, at H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online:
“Aue (main character) is an obvious composite, a technique that enables Littell to introduce readers to the stages by which the precise machinery of murder was discussed and implemented, technical and moral barriers were overcome, and the ‘Final Solution’ was scaled to all of Europe. Moreover, Littell does so with an extraordinary ability to provide historical citation that is both scrupulously accurate and gripping…Littell pushes Aue from site to site in order to unsettle readers’ consciences and to disrupt the distance they have gained by historicizing the Holocaust. In the end, then, The Kindly Ones cannot be simply rejected as scandal against representation or as the kitsch of voyeurism. Its perpetrators do speak.” Read more.