"Simply astounding....The Kindly Ones is unmistakably the work of a profoundly gifted writer." Time
"A great work of literary fiction, to which readers and scholars will turn for decades to come." Antony Beevor, The Times (London)
"You will read this book to the end with a mixture of fascination and disgust toward its narrator, and admiration for the author who created him." Boston Sunday Globe
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 intellectual steeped in philosophy, literature, and classical music, he is also a cold-blooded assassin and the consumate bureaucrat. Through the eyes of this cultivated yet monstrous man we experience in disturbingly precise detail the horros of the Second World War and the Nazi 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 away.
"Unquestionably brillant....What [Littell] acheives...is unparalleled." The Nation
The Kindly Ones is not a novel that announces itself quietly. For starters, there is the grandiose dedication: "For the dead." Then there is the epic invocation: "Oh my human brothers, let me tell you how it happened," it begins. What follows is nearly 1,000 pages of atrocity and horror, at times pushing the bounds of readability, in the form of a "fictional memoir" of Nazi SS officer Dr. Maximilien Aue. Jonathan Littell, the novel's American-born author, seems at first glance greatly concerned with the project of authenticity. Not only did he choose to write in French, as if to better capture the voice of his Francophone narrator (Aue is from Alsace and is half French), but his book is littered with German military terminology and attention to Nazi infrastructure so thorough it often verges on boring. But Littell has a maximalist vision of authenticity; his Aue spares no details in his journey through the epicenters of WWII's Eastern Front, whether the brutal slaughter of the Jews or the violence of his own fantasies.