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The Kindly Ones

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  4,219 ratings  ·  662 reviews
"Oh my human brothers, let me tell you how it happened." So begins the chilling fictional memoir of Dr. Maximilien Aue, a former Nazi officer who has reinvented himself, many years after the war, as a middle-class family man and factory owner in France.

Max is an intellectual steeped in philosophy, literature, and classical music. He is also a cold-blooded assassin and the
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Hardcover, 984 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by Harper (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Matt
Lugging this gigantic book around, from Omaha to Minneapolis to Dubai to Chicago back to Omaha, I began to question why I was reading it. It's nearly a thousand pages long; it's poorly translated; it was apparently edited by a monkey dying of Ebola; it has paragraphs that run on for pages, and pages, and pages; for some reason, there is no indentation for dialogue, so you're left guessing which indistinguishable character is saying which facile/stilted/cliched/boring thing; the translation is im ...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 3* of five

The Publisher Says: "Oh my human brothers, let me tell you how it happened." So begins the chilling fictional memoir of Dr. Maximilien Aue, a former Nazi officer who has reinvented himself, many years after the war, as a middle-class family man and factory owner in France.

Max is an intellectual steeped in philosophy, literature, and classical music. He is also a cold-blooded assassin and the consummate bureaucrat. Through the eyes of this cultivated yet monstrous man, we experi
...more
MJ Nicholls
So . . . the war. The Second one. Or is that the Second One? Do we capitalise all Things Pertaining to the War? I think it’s appropriate to capitalise when referring to the Greatest Atrocity in All of Mankind . . . or if not appropriate, respectful. And people, well, people keep writing books about It. That War. That Pesky War! This near-1000-page novel is the rambling testament of SS officer Dr. Max Aue, devoted Hauptsturmführer (Captain), later Standartenführer (Major), semi-repentant monster ...more
Darwin8u
"I live, I do what can be done, it's the same for everyone, I am a man like other men, I am a man like you. I tell you I am just like you!"

This is a hard book to review. It is like walking out of a David Lynch movie and feeling brain raped by the artist. How exactly to you attempt to explore the depths of Nazi Germany without feeling dark, abused, and sick afterwards? From conversations I've had with those who've hated this novel (and British critics I've read) there is far too much shit, incest
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S.
Reading “The Kindly Ones” is like roaming around a dilapidated mansion – it begs you to explore; it is both fascinating and repulsive. The book is very ambitious, and it’s a pleasure to read literature that takes on a serious if uncomfortable subject, and literature that takes itself seriously. I would have given this five stars, and I do find it largely successful, but there are some snags in the subplot that don’t quite work.

The overarching historical plot works well. The protagonist, Maximili
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Hadrian
"A new War and Peace ... Never, in the recent history of French literature, has an early work been so ambitious, so masterfully written, so meticulous in its detail or so serenely horrifying."
-Le Nouvel Observateur, taken from the back cover

“What is this shit?”
-A former French resistance fighter on this book, as quoted by Laurent Binet in The Millions

This is a book that could have been. There were brief flashes of fascination, tantalizing ideas, lost in an interminable sea of dreck.

The opening T
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Paul Bryant
Aug 13, 2012 Paul Bryant marked it as assorted-rants-about-stuff
Updated non-review

Check out this Sunday Times review for a devastating demonstration of why this hugely praised (in Europe) novel is actually total rubbish -

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.u...

I've not seen such a tirade of abuse for a long time.

***

update - well, this link did work once but doesn't now due to the Times' vile paywall policy. It's a shame because I have rarely seen such an eloquent demolition jopb on a piece of art. It was sheer poetry, you had to read it through your fingers.
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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
You're given a free trip to Europe, time-travelling back to world war two. Your vehicle is one of the two characters you are free to choose from: one, a Jew who hid for many months, was caught by the Germans, placed in a concentration camp, then died before the war was over; the other a Nazi officer who had been everywhere, practically met everyone of consequence in the German military, and survived the war. You will be like the character's shadow. You will be with him wherever he goes, 24/7. Yo ...more
Aubrey
Madness. Despicably disgustingly amazingly crafted madness. The ability of authors to write out these scenarios, diving into and drowning in the minds of the most horrific human beings imaginable, without completely losing their minds astounds me sometimes.

Maximilian Aue is just a byproduct of this whole history, if you can believe it. He starts out with horrific tendencies, to be sure (view spoiler). And
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Michel
Mar 17, 2009 Michel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michel by: JP Delvaux
Shelves: hist-fic, doulce, lit, cultures, war
The English translation of les Bienveillantes is a travesti. All the sardonic irony and the disgust of the author for his protagonist is lost; imagine taking seriously the Blagojevich defence (I am being punished for doing the right thing for the people who voted for me)!
It starts with the double-entendres (the word 'bienveillant' means 'kind' of course, but it can also denote watchfulness, or paternalism or 'meaning well', depending on the context) when ambiguity is the book's medium; then it m
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William

I believe this book is going to become a classic. I have looked at a number of reviews and I think a lot of people are disturbed by what they read, both by the descriptions of atrocities and by Max Aue's perverted character. It is true that it is a deeply disturbing book, but this does not in any way diminish the quality of the work. There is a lot to say about "Les Bienveillantes", and I suppose that its reception will diversify with time. The main reason why its is so deeply shocking is becaus
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Кремена Михайлова
В началото се чудех има ли смисъл да я чета след толкова книги/филми за Втората световна война, за Холокоста… Но бързо стана ясно, че това няма да е книга за 1-5-20 милиона жертви – руснаци, поляци, евреи или германци. Тук става въпрос за нещо по-глобално – човечеството; и същевременно за отделната човешка личност. Всъщност не съм човек, който се интересува особено от политика и история. Тук и аз по-скоро изследвам Човека (или човека?). В крайна сметка всичко това е сторено от хора, не от извънз ...more
Andrew
Most of what has been said in criticism of this book has deeply misrepresented it: yes, there is horrible brutality well beyond simple war narration (which you will find in almost every post-WWI novel or non-fiction book). This brutality will disturb every reader (or should). Yes, some of the main character's sexual obsessions will make most readers squirm a bit even if they aren't exactly squeamish. But to read these elements as the basic character and most memorable aspects of the book is cher ...more
Kevin
When the The Kindly Ones came out a few years ago in France it sold millions and won some of Europe's most prestigious literary awards . I was surprised therefore, to read so many negative reviews when it was recently released here in the U.S.
It seems people either loved it or hated it. Well add me to the list of those who loved it ! Yes, its dark, depressing, and in places, deranged to the point of perversion. But that's what makes it so fascinating. And I have no doubt, that in the future, t
...more
Marianne
Pages and pages of gore, entrails, decapitations, burnings, burials, shootings, burnings.... as if we didn't know that certain "people" had done these things. I do not and will never understand why this was a Prix Goncourt. It should have been Prix du Mauvais Gout.
Ben Babcock
This may not be evident, but I tend to avoid historical fiction set during World War II. I'm not sure why: it's an obvious (perhaps too obvious) source of material for exploring the human condition. I'm not squeamish about the details of the Holocaust. Maybe it's just that a lot of World War II fiction focuses on the battles, the military strategy and tactics, and it's military fiction that I'm avoiding. In the last month, however, I read Time's Arrow and The Kindly Ones, both of which are mem ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Middle-aged French intellectual Jonathan Littell caused a sensation in 2006 with his infamous The Kindly Ones (finally published in the US for the first time in 2008), a thousand-page historical novel which attempts to take the most complicated look ever at what turned a bunch of otherwise boring, middle-
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Nicholas
Creator of the biggest literary storm in France since the Surrealists trashed Latin Quarter cafés, Littel's first-person narrative of an SS officer's participation in the death squads has attracted moral and historical wranglings from fields as far as Julia Kristeva to Shoah survivors to opportunistic politicians. No-one does literary controversy like the French; but in spite of this, French critics have all but ignored certain aspects of a mainly extraordinary book, (aspects which will no doubt ...more
Fionnuala
Assigning a star rating to this book is impossible. I can see why it was necessary for it to be written - to remind us of what we are capable - but that doesn't make this book readable. Personally, I couldn't get beyond page 120 or thereabouts. My difficulty lay in reconciling the chilling, dispassionate voice of the narrator with the brutal and horrifying scenes he was witnessing. I became paralysed by the awful, stomach churning fear of what he would recount next. I have never experienced such ...more
Denis
I read this book in its French original version - which is important, because many American reviews are harsh with the author's writing style, and that may be due to the translation: Littell's French is actually quite beautiful - he writes in a direct, precise, elegantly classic way, and it does perfectly serve his story as well as it fits the narrator's voice. This story is, of course, at the center of the huge controversy the novel is creating - a controversy that has exploded in every country ...more
Petr
Výjimečná kniha, strhující, hluboká. Dostojevskij, Camus, Céline a Edgar Rice Burroughs v jednom. Těžko se budete přečtených obrazů zbavovat. Moc pěkné popravdě nejsou, ale stojí to za to. Vřele doporučuji - pro mne je to jeden z největších čtenářských zážitků posledních několika let.
Aba Mafalba

Δε συνηθίζω να γράφω για βιβλία, αλλά το συγκεκριμένο όντως δεν έτυχε απήχησης στο ελληνικό κοινό, απορίας άξιο γιατί. Στο βιβλιοπωλείο μού είπαν πως το βρήκαν με δυσκολία. Με περίμενε κάποιους μήνες στο ράφι της βιβλιοθήκης: μόλις το πήρα στα χέρια μου ξεφύλλισα τις πρώτες σελίδες. Διαφαινόταν ένα πραγματικά αξιόλογο βιβλίο, αλλά ήθελα να το διαβάσω πιο ήρεμα, πιο συγκεντρωμένα.

Στην τραγωδία του ο Αισχύλος προσπαθεί να μετατρέψει τις γνωστές Ερινύες, τις άτεγκτες και τρομερές αυτές θεότητες, σε
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Jason
I don't think I've ever read a book that received a more sound bludgeoning by both critics and readers alike.
While I'm decidedly not in the voluminous camp that found this work to be entirely loathsome, I'm not certain that in some ways it doesn't deserve at least a few of the many expressions of disapproval it has garnered.

But having said that, I feel initially compelled to state emphatically that many of these negative critical assertions, such as those that state the text represents nothing
...more
Diana
Въпреки многото изписано и филмирано по темата, тази книга е като шамар. Смилането на психиката, след което остават развалини и чудовища, вътрешната борба между човешките чувства, дълга и натрапените идеали, смъртта, безизходицата и примирението пред нея, болката, нездравите амбиции и всичко останало от пъзела на войната, предадено в подробности от първо лице, с точен, груб и нещадящ език, са шокиращи.

Книгата обаче има и слабости, неголеми, но натрапчиво чести, дразнещи и спъващи четенето (същит
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John
A wonderful novel that will enter the canon, if there's such a thing any longer. I agree with Steve Englund, who review the novel for 'Foreign Policy" magazine, "one of the great works of fiction in the post-war period."
I will also say that this is most decidedly not a novel for everyone or even for very many, certainly hardly any Americans at all, who have no knowledge or interest in the history of the European Bildungsroman, Thomas Mann's 'Magic Mountain,' for example.
'The Kindly Ones' is ver
...more
Lucrezia
Leggere le benevole è un po come decidere di entrare a vedere con i propri occhi cosa succede in un macello.Come ospiti d' onore, del macellaio.
Qualcosa da fare insomma, solo se avete stomaco, e tanto, e sopratutto se della verità ,su una delle cose più spregevoli dell' universo, come un genocidio/eccidio, non avete paura.
P.S. Non vi fate infinocchiare da Aue anche se è uno che sa argomentarsi bene.
Hanneke
It will take me a while before I can say anything sensible about this book. It is the book that ends all books on this subject for me.
Kelanth, numquam risit ubi dracones vivunt
Un libro difficile. Ricco. Angosciante. Scorrevole. Esasperante. Perverso. Visionante. Puro. Sconvolgente.

Una storia coronata da una moltitudine di consensi che ha vinto innumerevoli premi e che è diventato un caso editoriale in tutti i paesi in cui è uscito. Littell propone un romanzo complicato e dalle mille sfaccettature, amalgamando storia e fantasia.

Un passaggio perverso che dalla fine ti porta all'inizio e viceversa, sotto la guida delle "Benevole" mitiche Eumenidi, cantate da Eschilo nel
...more
Jesse
so i considered writing a full review of this book, but the themes are so extreme, and difficult to discuss without raising ire. also, this is a very public forum and i'd like to keep these personal thoughts to myself. i will say that this book challenged me in ways that novels rarely do, think blood meridian told from first person perspective with the judge explaining the horrors of war to you, the reader, in a refined, civilized ways. i understand why many readers would consider this novel war ...more
Sheree
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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A bi-lingual (English / French) writer living in Barcelona. He is a dual citizen of the United States and France and is of Jewish background. His first novel written in French, Les Bienveillantes , won two major French awards. ...more
More about Jonathan Littell...
Le sec et l'humide: une brève incursion en territoire fasciste Bad Voltage Tchéténie, An III Die Wohlgesinnten; Marginalienband Les Bienveillantes

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“If you were born in a country or at a time not only when nobody comes to kill your wife and your children, but also nobody comes to ask you to kill the wives and children of others, then render thanks to God and go in peace. But always keep this thought in mind: you might be luckier than I, but you’re not a better person.” 28 likes
“So what's the most atrocious thing you've seen?" He waved his hand: "Man, of course!” 14 likes
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