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The Naked and the Dead

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  23,721 ratings  ·  851 reviews
Based on Mailer's own experience of military service in the Philippines during World War Two, The Naked and the Dead' is a graphically truthful and shattering portrayal of ordinary men in battle. First published in 1949, as America was still basking in the glories of the Allied victory, it altered forever the popular perception of warfare.

Focusing on the experiences of a f
Paperback, 50th Anniversary Edition, 721 pages
Published August 28th 2000 by Picador (first published 1948)
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Stanley Salmons I don't think this novel would be in the least helpful to you. It is a story about the soldiers involved in a small part of the Pacific Campaign in th…moreI don't think this novel would be in the least helpful to you. It is a story about the soldiers involved in a small part of the Pacific Campaign in the 2nd World War. It focuses on their trials, the waiting, the fatigue, and their backstories. Certainly this campaign put an end to Japanese imperialism, but that isn't the theme of the book.(less)
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Vit Babenco
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Naked and the Dead is Norman Mailer’s best novel and it is the best American book about war.
The General had once said to him, ‘I like chaos, it's like the reagents foaming in the beaker before the precipitation of the crystals. It's a kind of savory to me.’

To generals war is a theatre and a battlefield is a stage so they can admire the scenes of bloodbath from afar.
The Naked and the Dead is a merciless and extremely graphic novel but what the hell, war knows no shame and no pity.
Now that th
Paul Bryant
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned, novels
Us readers have no homes, like unnoticed birds we perch anywhere, like the most disturbed stalkers we go through anybody’s underwear drawer, like vicious tax-gatherers we audit everyone, the writers especially, their creatures the characters very particularly, and hanging between all three of us, the book. It sits there in its cover. We ticket, we note, we award, with our eyes, brains and stars. We scribble in the margins to the outrage of future readers – well, I do, maybe you do not do that. ( ...more
Aug 11, 2009 rated it liked it
“Nobody could sleep. When morning came, assault craft would be lowered and a first wave of troops would ride through the surf and charge ashore on the beach at Anopopei. All over the ship, all through the convoy, there was a knowledge that in a few hours some of them were going to be dead…”
- Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead

Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead is War and Peace as written by Larry David. It has all the Tolstoyean hallmarks: dozens of main characters; an ever-shifting third-
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer

Written in gritty, journalistic detail, the story follows an army platoon of foot soldiers who are fighting for the possession of the Japanese-held island of Anopopei. Composed in 1948, The Naked and the Dead is representative of the best in twentieth-century American writing.

The novel is divided into four parts: Wave, Argil and Mold, Plant and Phantom, and Wake. Within these parts are chorus sections, consisting of play-like dialogue between characters, as w
Andrew Smith
Jun 07, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-finished
I can't recall how many years ago I tried to read this - probably 30 or more. I recall hearing that it was the best story about war ever written so, impressionable as I was at that age, I decided I'd have to read it.

My only recollection is that very early on there was a scene of such grim death and destruction that I felt physically sickened. Coward that I was (and probably still am) I gave up the attempt to work my way through this tome immediately.

I noticed an excellent review from a GR frie
Josh Moyes
Jun 02, 2010 rated it did not like it
This is the shittiest book I have ever read.

H. P. Lovecraft, the horror writer from the earlier decades of the 20th century, wrote very little dialogue in his stories because he was aware that he wrote bad dialogue. Stilted, pedantic garbage. He knew that his forte was the description and action of his stories and so for the most part he stuck to that and wrote some very satisfying creepy stories.

By contrast, Norman Mailer wrote a great deal of dialogue in the "Naked and the Dead". He didn't wri
Jun 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a book about America. Its no secret that Tolstoy is Mailer's favorite author, and reading this book right after reading War and Peace gave me a good perspective on everything defined in this book. It captures a uniquely American milieu of characters at a time when a uniquely american sence of Idenity and patriotism was being forged. It spoke of the physical and intellectual challenges of various backgrounds through about a dozen main characters with learned empathy. And in the end and th ...more
Aug 09, 2009 marked it as aborted-efforts
Shelves: dicklits, war-is-hell
Executioner's Song was one of the best books I've read in the past year -- so good I haven't felt up to reviewing it -- so I had high expectations for The Naked and the Dead. The front-cover blurb from the SF Chronicle speculates that this novel is "perhaps the best book to come out of any war," which really jacked up the ante and got me intrigued.

Well, I got only a little over a hundred pages in, and IMHO The Naked and the Dead isn't bad, but it is not a better book than War and Peace or The Il
Nandakishore Mridula
Sep 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
I read this long, long ago and none of the story or characters have stayed with me. What is left is an impression of a war so gritty and dirty that one feels disgusted (I remember one character having some sort of kidney problem, with attendant stomach-ache and blood in urine - for me, this has become the defining image of war). Also, the last sentence - "Hot dog!" - by a soldier contemplating possible furlough. I think Mailer achieved what he intended, at least with me. ...more
Sep 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
The Naked and the Dead is considered a classic novel of WWII. One of its strengths is that it presents the war at several different levels: an Army general in command of a Pacific island invasion, a HQ officer, an experienced sergeant leading a platoon and the soldiers who are the implements of everyone else, some who aspire to become a noncom, while others aspire to nothing more than survival. At each of these levels, the novel is very introspective, exploring different individuals’ motivations ...more
Aug 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book considering it was the author's first published novel. All the more amazing considering Mailer was something like 20 years old when he wrote it. I picked it up after reading somewhere that Mailer actually joined the military during WWII in order to gain some life experience so he could write a book. I really enjoyed Mailer's writing style. It was vivid, alive and gritty.

Mailer describes the jungle in perfect detail. You can almost feel yourself being smothered by the den
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: samizdat
It seemed to him now that he was very near a fundamental understanding of himself, and he felt a sense of mystery and discovery as if he had found unseen gulfs and bridges in all the familiar drab terrain of his life. “You know,” he said, “life is funny.”

I often loved this account of anxiety and failure, though I remain certain that Mailer robbed Hemingway -- particularly -- For Whom The Bell Tolls. The jungle affords reflection on sexual incongruity and soured ambition. The Japanese don't app
Dec 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Less a war novel and more a rumination on class and military structure, Norman Mailer's World War II book is a hard-edged "Catch 22" that dispenses with satire and revels in cynicism. Unlike Joseph Heller's masterwork, perhaps the definitive WWII book in close contention with Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five," The Naked and the Dead contains no character we may call completely sympathetic, and is perhaps the only war novel out there that lacks a strict protagonist. The main character in The Naked ...more
Jul 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Probably the best war epic in the "from here to eternity" vein I've read. And all the more astonishing because mailer seems to have started that style - at least in America; I've not read Tolstoy. And then even moreso because Mailer was only 24 when it came out. Definitely a spectacular first novel.

The problem is that it also confirmed for me that I'm just not all that into the war epic in the "from here to eternity" style. I admire Mailer's plot and character development on principle, and there
As a young woman I swore I would never read anything by that bastard Norman Mailer. I'd read "The Executioner's Song" and thought it okay but I despised Mailer as if from a personal feminist vendetta. In fact, I still do. BUT this book knocked my socks off. I loved it. So much for prejudice. ...more
DNF at 49%, 353 pages. I'm bored and this is slow going so I'm giving up in total frustration. It's not a bad book but it would take me way longer to finish than I can possibly bear. ...more
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: my-fiction
From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line are far superior to this book by the acclaimed Mailer. I read this first and as much as I enjoyed the banter between Hearn and Cummings it was a bit too forced. As to the end for the mission to get spooked about insects just seemed to me that Mailer was not sure how to finish the story. The Jones books restored my faith that there were some good war novels.
Mar 16, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2, military_fiction
I had high expectations for this novel. Unfortunately they weren't met. The writing is well done and the story is enjoyable. But the novel is more about the characters with the war in the Pacific as a backdrop. Seriously the underlying story could have been replaced with almost any other war story and the same tale could have been told. So three stars for the character story, but in my opinion this does not match the level of Battle Cry by Leon Uris or Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes where the even ...more
May 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is one of the great war novels from World War II. Norman Mailer studied aeronautical engineering at Harvard, but he became interested in writing, having his first story published at age 18. He was drafted after he graduated from college in 1943. He served in the Pacific with the United States Army, where he obtained the knowledge and experience to write about soldiers in combat. The Naked and the Dead was published when Mailer was 25. It instantly became a huge success, spending 62 weeks on ...more
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It has been a long time since a book has gripped me like Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead. A door stopper of a book and not one you can sail through. But I finished it in a few days. It Is that good. In modern terms this is not a particularly violent or sexy book. There are battles, and death but honestly presented as stark and fearful panic inducing moments of terror. The F bomb is so fretfully coded that the author was once derided as being the writer who did not know how to spell it. Th ...more
Richard Bon
This was the first I’ve read of Norman Mailer and I was extremely disappointed. I had high hopes for this novel with its billing as ‘The Greatest War Novel Produced in This Century.’ What? Every war novel written in the 20th century I’ve read trumps this one. Mailer’s writing felt forced – his weaving of soldier’s back stories into the narrative I found clumpy, the details unrealistic – his portrayal of General Cummings’ thought processes bordered on ridiculous at times – and none of the plot li ...more
Carol Storm
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant book -- punctures the sentimentalities of both the Left and the Right while providing an unforgettable picture of combat in the Pacific.

I often wonder if Larry McMurtry (one of my favorite authors) read this book as a kid in Texas. Sergeant Croft bears an uncanny resemblance to Captain Woodrow Call. The two men are almost identical, cold and efficient and deadly, except Call is represented as a man of principle and Croft is dismissed as a cruel bully. At the same time, Wilson resembles
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The whole time I'm reading this I couldn't stop thinking that Mailer was only 26 when he wrote this and yet was able to so intricately describe the inner workings of so many different kinds of characters. He had those thought patterns which are a common part of being human effectively personalized and intellectualized for each individual. It's amazing writing for anyone at any age with any amount of life experience. His books require time and effort but the payoff is always worth it. Got a few m ...more
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was, by all means, not an easy book to get through. In fact, I nearly put it down about one-third of the way through. I can't imagine how shocking "The Naked and the Dead" must have been when it was first published, and by today's standards it might be cliche and tame. But Mailer's novel is a masterpiece that not only pits man against man but also man against nature. Overindulgent at times, with long passages that meander nearly endlessly, this book certainly brings you up close and persona ...more
This is not a war novel, but a novel about Americans at war. And which Americans? Largely cast with Depression-era misanthropes, Mailer zooms in and out via flashbacks (called "Time Machines") in an attempt to create an anti-war novel of the post-WWI species. He mostly succeeds in creating an anti-American novel of the 1950s species, where the least self-aware have the keenest insights. Does Tolstoy meets Bertolt Brecht make sense?

On the positive side, some inter-character interactions were thri
Jay Wright
Mar 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a novel of World War II. It involves Army soldiers and not Marines as Goodreads states in the description. This fact makes no difference in the story. This book does a good job of painting a very good picture of the GI. It does not go far enough to describe the horrors of war. While I am not a veteran my father was and my youngest son is a veteran. There are men from North and South, from upper society and the ghettoes, Jews and Gentiles, Hispanic, that are characters in this story. It s ...more
Sep 11, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Picked up towards the end, but still wasn't my cup of tea...
I wonder, if it would have been better to read this in my mother tongue...

Perry Whitford
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mailer's first novel, before his masculine psychosexual obsessions got the better of him.

Of all the American literary giants of the second half of the 20th century - Bellow, Mailer, Roth, Updike - none have disappointed me as much as Mailer over the years. This was the first novel of his I read and I liked it, which is why I'm prepared to give it another go.

As for the rest of his stuff, I enjoyed Ancient Evenings the most because I love Ancient Egypt and Rameses the Great at least made for a gen
Dec 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Is it Mailer's second hand re-telling of horrors of war makes him give a detachment to his characters? Or is it his own inexperience makes it a better war novel as a whole? Most novels based on war have a tendency to evoke sympathy, glamorize apathy or expect empathy. Normal Mailer's The Naked and the Dead does none of that.

Its representation of bunch of people stuck in a war they don't understand, afraid of death hovering in every shadow. The brutal prose Mailer executes removes all possible e
Larry Bassett
Sep 14, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, audio, war
This book was published in 1948 but the audible edition that I listen to was not recorded until 2016. This may be indicative of the enduring nature of this novel but the lack of an immediate necessity to move it into the audible world.

I would say this is not your normal war novel. It is lacking the routine battles and blood and guts. Not to say that there is not death and considerable distress. The book spends a good deal of time investigating the backgrounds and interior minds of the main dozen
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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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