The Castle in the Forest
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The Castle in the Forest

3.11 of 5 stars 3.11  ·  rating details  ·  1,858 ratings  ·  331 reviews
No career in modern American letters is at once so brilliant, varied, and controversial as that of Norman Mailer. In a span of more than six decades, Mailer has searched into subjects ranging from World War II to Ancient Egypt, from the march on the Pentagon to Marilyn Monroe, from Henry Miller and Mohammad Ali to Jesus Christ. Now, in The Castle in the Forest, his first m...more
Paperback, 477 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2007)
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Mar 22, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kristin Cavallari
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Dagobert O'Gara
Shelves: own, fiction
Is it possible to successfully novelize Adolf Hitler's life? Not if you're Norman Mailer. Mailer can't resist psychosexualizing everything. (Granted, it's a target-rich environment: Klara Pölzl, Adolf's mother, was the niece of Adolf's father Alois and (or) may have been his daughter; Klara called Alois "Uncle" throughout their marriage, apparently.) Mailer imagines Alois enjoying the feel of Adolf's buttocks as he beats him; he imagines a circle-jerk among school chums; Klara adores and celebra...more
While the concept of this book was interesting - the narrator was a demon who influenced the devopment of Adolph Hitler in his early years - I found it filled with so much disgusting detail that it was difficult to stay with it until the end. And since much of it did not directly involve Hitler, it seemed unnecessary. I would not recommend this book to anyone.
i just read this book for our book club. I think others disliked it, but I thought it was fantastic and very unusual--which contributes to its fantastic-ness (is that a word)? The narrator is a minor devil who works for Satan, or maybe not, he doesn't really know, it could be another mid-level devil with no real power... and that begins to give you an idea of this elaborate world Mailer constructs.

The book is really more about Hitler's family than about him, and some in the book club began to r...more
Gale Martin
About ten years ago, I immersed myself in personal reading about Hilter and the Holocaust, including a biography by Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, trying to understand how Hitler could have done what he did, how he became evil incarnate. I was no student of psychology, but I suspected family of origin issues deeply contributed to his psychopathy. I read other articles, citing beatings from his aging father and Hitler's contempt for his subservient young mother as reasons why he devolv...more
Hitler may have been a tiny bit inbred, according to Mailer's research.

Also, the Devil pulled the strings Bela Lugosi in Glen or Glenda.

But, couldn't get beyond page 100.

And, keep in mind, it's part one of a trilogy.

Forest of Trees is due in 2009, with Blondi and Eva to follow in 2010.
A terrific concept -- Hitler's childhood, told from the vantage point of the Devil. Long, long, long, with a lot of odd side trips (what is Tsar Nicholas' coronation doing here???), and kind of overwrought. Wanted it to be a lot better than it was.
CD/unabridged/Literature: Where do I start? Well, I'm giving it four stars and I hate that I liked it. I mean, it's about Hitler!

The narrator was Harris Yulin and he does a great job narrating with an American accent while doing the voices in a German one. (Harris Yulin played Head Watcher Quentin Travers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy: "....and with out the slayer, you're just watching Masterpiece Theatre".) This novel is 15 discs long and had to have a good narrator. I don't think I could...more
T Fool
Dead now for not even two years and entering the reputational eclipse nearly all The Known do -- perhaps a symbolic washing of the corpse -- Norman Mailer deserves his last book to be noticed, even read.

Not that this is vintage Mailer, but it does contain vintage Mailer themes: sexual untidiness, grumbling guilt and bad faith, accident as opportunistic History, harmartia, and an existential theology, a battle between good and bad angels -- in this case, a secret bureaucracy not American, but tha...more
This is my first book by Norman Mailer and it surly won't be my last. I did enjoy Mailer's writing style more than I liked the story line. The story is told from the perspective of one of Satan's devils and I found myself enjoying the details of what it is like to work for Satan, and what the crudgels (angels) are like, then about what in Hitler's past made him so evil. There is quiet a bit of time spend on the toilet training of little Adolf; better get it right parents, bee keeping, and a whol...more
While I can see why some think Mailer is a genius, this was not, in my opinion, his best work. Mailer tends to become obsessed with things meant to dusgust us, and in this one,true to form, I was digusted over and over. I would find myself having to stop and backtrack a bit, thinking I must have missed something. He can't possibly be speaking of anuses right now. Unfortunately, he was.
The story itself was interesting only because we know this boy grows up to be a monster, but honestly, he wasn...more
Chris Northington
Forgive me for the following cliche: This was a page-turner. Also forgive me for the fact that this book happened to be about Adolf Hitler. Insightful, hilarious, tongue-biting, and overall genius. I actually punched in late a few times for wont of reading on my lunch break at work.
Norman Mailer continues to frustrate me. Sometimes he's brilliant and sometimes he's a cad. The latter is the case with regard to this novel. Filled with way too much crass, sexual perversion even for a liberal mind, this story appears to be Mailer's attempt to demonstrate to the reader how Adolf Hitler's family and childhood environment played a role in shaping him into the perverse and twisted individual that he ended up being as an adult. From start to finish sex, in all it's manifestations,...more
A large portion of Norman Mailer's "The Castle in the Forest" is devoted to Adolf Hitler's adolescent years as an apprentice beekeeper. Yes, bees. Really. I am not kidding. I couldn't possibly make up anything so insane.

The novel, the late Mailer's last, is told from the point of view of one of Satan's minions, who is assigned to Adolf and his family both before his birth and as he grows up. It's this aspect of the book that's most troubling. It seems a step backward in our understanding of Nazi...more
Strange book. Combine "The Screwtape Letters", "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" and "The Secret Life of Bees" and you can get a flavor for this book, although my comparison does a disservice to all 3 books mentioned above.

The tale chronicles the formation of the young Adolph Hitler and events leading up to his birth that contributed to his nature. Truthfully this book would bore a neo-Nazi to tears. Great if you are into beekeeping, incest or Austrian Customs inspection techniques of the 1800'...more
Erik Graff
Aug 21, 2011 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hitler/Mailer fans
Recommended to Erik by: Lisa Zielke
Shelves: literature
This novel constitutes a well-researched hypothetical reconstruction of the early life of Adolf Hitler through the death of his father. It's greatest weakness, in my opinion, is Mailer's decision to make its narrator a devil assigned to shepherd young Adolf through childhood and adolescence. This allows some insight, yes, but such could as well have been achieved by third person authorial narration. Or, even more interestingly, Mailer could have stuck to the device of having the book narrated by...more
John Sherman
May 08, 2007 John Sherman rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mailer fans, people interested in WWII era history, fans of historical fiction
Mailer has written this from the first person narrative perspective of the demon who was in charge of Adolf Hitler's development. The story follows the Hitler family history and the early / developmental years of young Adolf, as told from the point of view of a minor devil. This book didn't really do it for me. In telling the story, Mailer explores many of the possible reasons why Adolf Hitler grew up to be a monster. Some of these are fairly interesting - possible inbreeding, an abusive father,...more

A strong solid story marred with Mailer's overwrought obsessions/preconceptions with Freudian scatology and creepy incest and the like.

Mailer is much better off when he cuts out the self-consciously radical metaphysical hullabaloo and tells the freakin' story.

This goes equally well for this novel as for many in the Mailer canon.

A noble failure. Mailer tried to exemplify his philosophical system (which I find fascinating) using the story of Hitler's childhood and young adulthood. Interesting con...more
I really thought that I would enjoy this book, seeing as I have a sincere interest in Hitlers childhood and all this talk about him being inbred. Alas, I had to drag myself through it. The concept is promising, and really pulled me in, however, having said that, I'm not sure that I even understand how the demon has anything to do with Hitler at all. Is the author saying he possessed him? Did he possess his father? Another family member? Or did he just impact the actions of Hitler? Or the actions...more
This was a really odd and disturbing book and not for the faint of heart. A lot of detailed sexual matters involved. Told in third person from an agent of the Maestro (Satan) who delves into his instruction & interventions of evil influences on Adolph Hitler, from before his birth through his years at school. A rather difficult premise, which held my attention, even though there were times that I felt physically ill from the descriptions the author, Norman Mailer, used throughout the book.
The Castle in the Forest reminds me of a more-vulgar, period version of C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. Both books are full of philosophical musings on good and evil and the development of those qualities in a human being, and both books hide such arguments in humor, narrated by demonic spirits who have direct influence over their human "clients". Mailer takes Lewis' provocative subject matter one step further, however, by inserting a young Adolf Hitler into his narrative as the prime focus...more
Denis Materna
Great characters, Alois, Klara, Angela, Adi, Edmond, an interesting narrative relating mostly the life of Alois Heidler.

The narrator is an Evil Spirit who chooses to follow the lives of these ordinary Austrian folk simply on the grounds that they are highly inbred through self-deceptions and confusions, which gives them possibility of being more easily guided into Evil deeds.

Actually the story of the family is normal and touching in terms that it is an ordinary family, except perhaps that of A...more
Like his book about Lee Harvey Oswald, Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery, this one is also peculiar. It is a rather rambling, if not bumbling, fictional account of the childhood of Adolf Hitler and his bee-keeping dad.

In Michelin Guides' oft used words it's not "vaut le détour "
I couldn't finish this book. A tale of Hitler as a youth, Norman Mailer takes a compelling subject and adds his own bit of fantastic and supernatural drama in a disjointed way, which ends up taking away from the story, rather than adding to it. Not serious enough to be a fictionalized biography, and not fun enough to be a fantasy novel, I didn't know what to do with it and have put it down for good.
Tracy St Claire
Mailer's Castle in the Forest took ten yeears and in all that time he didn't tell anyone what he was writing about, not even his wife. Ten years. The secret?? A hefty explanation of young Hitler and his family narrated by the Devil's minion who in Mailer's tome, molded him into the monster Adolf became. If you read it like a beach novel, it is just one long "yo Mama, Hitler!" insults on a series of incest happenings in his family. There are also other abuse other horrible happenings, leading me...more
Interesting premise (devil observes life of young Hitler) but very bizarre and dull digressions. Lots of talk about piss and Nicholas II. Come on, Norman, you could've done better than this.
Martin Brant
Nobody does it like Norman Mailer, one of my favorite author's.
While reading it, I couldn't help imagining the great book this would have been if written by Thomas Bernhard, who I think would have made an interesting exploration of some real events and people such as Adolf's classmate Ludwig Wittgenstein.
The presence of incest is excessive and masturbatory. The book made me think of Norman Mailer (a father of nine) as a puritan tool boasting his moral superiority over Hitler, which is the exact opposite of what I think a literary exploration of a dictator's...more
this book captured my interest immediately. the premise was both creative and fascinating. imagine an assistant to the devil being chosen to watch over adolph hitler from pre-conception throughout his childhool. mailer teaches us much about the colonization of bees through hitler's father's fascination, involvement and ultimate retirement business. so, i read and read and then, about halfway through, i was lost. why? not because i didn't understand. more because i was just plain bored. the origi...more
Mardel Fehrenbach
I enjoyed reading this book, although it was admittedly a little difficult to get started and I can completely understand the some of the criticisms. Although the novel is supposedly about the youth of Hitler and he became the person whom history remembers, I really felt that the young Adolf was the least interesting part of the book. Knowing what we know about history, and given modern theories of psychological development, there was nothing particularly new or revelatory about that part of the...more
Ian Mapp
This book was published in the year of Mailers death. It now makes sense that this book was meant to be the first part of a tilogy.

We are dealing with the early life of Adolf Hitler. This makes the book pseudo fiction - as it plays on myths, legends and half truths. Was Hitler part Jewish? Was he the product of an Incesteous Union? Did he have only one ball?

Its that sort of book - deadly serious and blackly humorous. Also plays a nod to the art of fiction in a playful way.

I liked the narrator of...more
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Worth reading? 7 28 Apr 09, 2013 03:26AM  
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Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and film director.

Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, and Tom Wolfe, Mailer is considered an innovator of creative nonfiction, a genre sometimes called New Journalism, but which covers the essay to the nonfiction novel. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize twice and the National Book Award once....more
More about Norman Mailer...
The Naked and the Dead The Executioner's Song An American Dream The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History The Fight

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“Prevarication, like honesty, is reflexive, and soon becomes a sturdy habit, as reliable as truth.” 1 likes
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