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The Castle in the Forest

3.14  ·  Rating Details ·  2,404 Ratings  ·  382 Reviews
The final work of fiction from Norman Mailer, a defining voice of the postwar era, is also one of his most ambitious, taking as its subject the evil of Adolf Hitler. The narrator, a mysterious SS man in possession of extraordinary secrets, follows Adolf from birth through adolescence and offers revealing portraits of Hitler’s parents and siblings. A crucial reflection on t ...more
ebook, 496 pages
Published January 23rd 2007 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2007)
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Jul 31, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it it was ok  ·  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
Nov 10, 2007 Cindi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Gale Martin
Jan 02, 2012 Gale Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 15, 2007 Apoorva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 30, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-unabridged
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
Feb 14, 2008 Matt rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: won-t-read-again

A strange, intriguing 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. Interest
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.
Jul 02, 2007 Wendy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
T Fool
May 21, 2009 T Fool rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed-books
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
Sep 15, 2009 John rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 10, 2009 Tracy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Israel Montoya Baquero
Interesante en algunos puntos, lo único que me chirría es la explicación propuesta por Mailer a lo horrible de la figura de Adolf Hitler. No obstante, si obviamos eso, la ¿novela? plantea algunas cuestiones realmente interesantes...
No está a la altura de otras de sus obras, pero he disfrutado bastante leyendola
May 05, 2008 Daniel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
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
Aug 30, 2007 Fred rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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'
Brooke Manolis
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
John Sherman
May 08, 2007 John Sherman rated it it was ok  ·  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
Erik Graff
Nov 06, 2008 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  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
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
Aug 20, 2012 Amanda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 14, 2009 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 17, 2014 Anxolo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 04, 2007 Aubrey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 14, 2012 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 "
Rick Slane
I enjoyed this book. This is the only Mailer work I have read. I didn't think I would like it since I wasn't interested in Mailer, Hitler, or WWII; but I found it to be about a strange boy growing up in an unusual way. I found myself often daydreaming about my own youth altho it was nothing like Hitler's. So I recommend giving this book a try.
Martin Brant
Aug 22, 2008 Martin Brant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nobody does it like Norman Mailer, one of my favorite author's.
Ted Burke
Apr 16, 2010 Ted Burke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Norman Mailer’s new novel, The Castle in the Forest, to be released on his 84th birthday on January 23rd, is an eccentric imagining about the young Adolph Hitler, narrated by a top lieutenant of The Devil. Mailer's novel is study in three generations of dysfunction, with the young Adolph being the cold sociopathic fulfilment of Hitler Family Values. In incident after incident, ranging from his father Alois's incestuous infidelities to the youth's rapt fascination in a village blacksmith's theori ...more
Jun 02, 2017 Downward rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
mailer takes an inventive concept - a narrative written by the demon that is meant to shepherd hitler through his childhood and craft the monster than he becomes - and buries it in incrdibly base obsessions: feces, incest, hitler's single testicle. that these points are just lingered on in mailer's normal high falutin prose only makea it worse. there's emotion to be wrung out of hitler's tragic relationship with his father and his younger brother, but we only indulge this emotion briefly, when i ...more
John Deaton
May 28, 2010 John Deaton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before beginning my workday, which is in the afternoon because I sleep late, I find myself preparing for my writing by putting myself into a kind of trance. It helps that the kids are grown, the phone can be turned off, the computer hasn't yet taken over my life, and I can still find a voice. Just now Elvis told me, "I was an oak, now I'm a willow, and I can bend ..." I glanced above the CD player and saw the lyrics to "A Lover's Concerto," by the Toys, consisting of June Montiero, Barbara Parri ...more
Nov 24, 2014 Carlos rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A serviço de sua satânica majestade

Muito já se leu que O Castelo na Floresta, último romance do gigante americano da ficção Norman Mailer, é uma biografia de Adolf Hitler. Não de todo. O pequeno Adolf está ausente ou tem pouca importância até depois da metade do livro, e a narrativa se ocupa mais da formação e das paixões do pai, Alois, do que do próprio Adolf Hitler. Tanto que o volume se encerra por volta de 1903, data em que Alois morre de um colapso motivado por seu alcoolismo. Nessa altura,
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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.
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“Prevarication, like honesty, is reflexive, and soon becomes a sturdy habit, as reliable as truth.” 5 likes
“As the Maestro is never loath to tell us, a human who suffers from too much ambition succeeds only in exemplifying the Creator’s own lack of anticipation. The D.K., wishing His Vision to be innovative, had created the human will as an instinct all but free of Him. Once again, God had miscalculated.” 3 likes
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