Reading 1001 discussion

The Kindly Ones
This topic is about The Kindly Ones
34 views
Archives > Questions Part 1

Comments Showing 1-13 of 13 (13 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Diane Zwang | 1315 comments Mod
Questions from Penguin Random House Canada

1. What is the intent behind the novel's astonishing accumulation of historical detail? What is the effect of Aue's descriptions of horrifying crimes in his detached, precise fashion?

2. "I am a man like other men, I am a man like you. I tell you I am just like you!" So says Aue at the beginning of the novel. Is he? "I am guilty, you're not, fine - but you might also have done what I did." What do you think the author is asking the reader here?

3. What does the importance of bureaucracy, management, and politics to The Kindly Ones contribute to its portrait of Nazi Germany?

4. Why is The Kindly Ones divided into musical sections (Toccata, Sarabande . . .). What is the significance of music, the arts, and intellectual life more generally in The Kindly Ones?

5. What does Aue's sexuality contribute to your sense of his personality?


Kristel (kristelh) | 4263 comments Mod
July would take the reader to 325. This would be
1. Toccata (a musical composition for a keyboard instrument designed to exhibit the performer's touch and technique.) pages 3-24.

2. Allemandes I and II (any of a number of German dances.
the music for any of these, especially as a movement of a suite.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4263 comments Mod
1. What is the intent behind the novel's astonishing accumulation of historical detail? What is the effect of Aue's descriptions of horrifying crimes in his detached, precise fashion?
providing historical detail sets it in time and place. The effect is to perhaps show the effects on a person who has had exposure to such horrendous events. It also may decrease the horror for the reader.?"

2. "I am a man like other men, I am a man like you. I tell you I am just like you!" So says Aue at the beginning of the novel. Is he? "I am guilty, you're not, fine - but you might also have done what I did." What do you think the author is asking the reader here? I buy this. I think everyone is capable of horrendous acts. We kid ourselves if we think we are above it.

3. What does the importance of bureaucracy, management, and politics to The Kindly Ones contribute to its portrait of Nazi Germany? in this there is much. The author points out how government, bureaucracy creates it's own 'science' that is not based on truth but sells it as truth such as the idea that there are racial differences that can be proven scientifically".

4. Why is The Kindly Ones divided into musical sections (Toccata, Sarabande . . .). What is the significance of music, the arts, and intellectual life more generally in The Kindly Ones? I am not sure but I think it is intriguing and waiting for others to comment.

5. What does Aue's sexuality contribute to your sense of his personality? I am not sure why the author chose to make Aue's sexuality so base. His engagement in acts without feeling for his partner but it is quite similar to the ability to kill without feeling for the victim. It's another way to show how detached Aue is from emotional empathy and only exists to satisfy himself.


message 4: by Pip (last edited Jul 30, 2018 11:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pip | 1481 comments 1.I don't know how much of the book is fiction and how much is based on actual people and actual decisionmaking, but the detail convinces the reader that this is what probably happened.
2.I think that anyone is capable of horrendous acts and very few stood up to the Nazis. Those that did were quickly killed.
3.The discussions about whether the Jugendberger were Jewish or not was terrifyingly believable. People were so obsessed with fulfilling expectations that they failed to consider what they were actually doing. It was almost comical in its banality.
4. I am unsure about the significance of musical terminology. I looked up toccata and wondered if he was slyly referring to Aue's justifications as being a nimble piece of virtuosity. Aue is interested in literature, history, language, architecture. He is intellectually inquisitive and cultured. That juxtaposition with what is expected of him is what makes it all so horrifying.
5.Aue hides his homosexuality, although suspicions are aroused. He is somewhat of an outsider as a consequence, which gives him a detachment he is at pains to cultivate.


Gail (gailifer) | 1540 comments 1. What is the intent behind the novel's astonishing accumulation of historical detail? What is the effect of Aue's descriptions of horrifying crimes in his detached, precise fashion?

I agree with Pip that the overwhelming amount of detail managed to convince me that there is a huge amount of truth in the book. Also, if you persevere through the book it becomes a world onto itself. You simply exist in it rather than enjoy reading it.

2. "I am a man like other men, I am a man like you. I tell you I am just like you!" So says Aue at the beginning of the novel. Is he? "I am guilty, you're not, fine - but you might also have done what I did." What do you think the author is asking the reader here?

I read the first chapter twice because I had just had an very interesting argument with someone about the "rules of war" and the concept of total war. It started with a discussion of the burning of Dresden (was this really necessary?) and then ranged to the burning of Atlanta, Hiroshima and went on to genocides and what exactly constitutes genocide. I do think that humans become numbed to much of the horror going on around them and feel as if there is nothing that they as an individual can do to change it. Also, the Social Democratic government creeped up on many people in Germany. It did not appear evil from the get go to someone who may have stood against them but didn't go out and riot against them. And yes, I think that most humans can be talked into almost anything sadly. Thankfully there are always a few who can resist but they are usually gotten rid of.

3. What does the importance of bureaucracy, management, and politics to The Kindly Ones contribute to its portrait of Nazi Germany?

It helps explain the numbing effects to the average participant. The amount of bureaucracy was extreme. I kept thinking that if they had invested even half as much intellectual effort and manpower into the actual war as they did into the bureaucracy and the "actions" that they would have gotten further on the Eastern Front. It also shines a light on the nature of the decision making under the Nazi. It was extremely important to follow orders but they often did not know who had really made the decisions and frequently just implied that "it went up to the "Fuhrer". This clearly helped to alleviate guilt among the officers.

4. Why is The Kindly Ones divided into musical sections (Toccata, Sarabande . . .). What is the significance of music, the arts, and intellectual life more generally in The Kindly Ones?

There are times when Aue describes a mountain scene or a intimate human interaction not his own and I am astonished at his (the character's) ability to see life after what he has been through. I think the musical sections and some of the discussions about the arts, history, poetry and music is again a way to humanize these monsters and convince me that they are "just like me".

5. What does Aue's sexuality contribute to your sense of his personality?

He seems very delusional about his only having one female love and that he had to turn to men because no other woman could be her equal. He comes across as someone that truly believes that men are superior and therefore he loves them all the more. In the story it marks him as an other and it makes him vulnerable to those in authority and to misunderstandings with his colleagues. He is surrounded by men and yet he can not relate to them as sexual beings so there is a way in which he has to bury his animal nature as well as his cultivated human nature.

I am up to page 335. Are you all continuing? Does it get better? I mean as a book, obviously the war and what happens during the war can not "get better".

reply | flag *


Kristel (kristelh) | 4263 comments Mod
Gail wrote: "1. What is the intent behind the novel's astonishing accumulation of historical detail? What is the effect of Aue's descriptions of horrifying crimes in his detached, precise fashion?

I agree with..."

I will continue but not sure when I will get back to it because everything else will take priority, but once I get those behind me, I will return. I plan to finish it.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4263 comments Mod
Gail wrote: "1. What is the intent behind the novel's astonishing accumulation of historical detail? What is the effect of Aue's descriptions of horrifying crimes in his detached, precise fashion?

I agree with..."

I will continue but not sure when I will get back to it because everything else will take priority, but once I get those behind me, I will return. I plan to finish it.


Diane Zwang | 1315 comments Mod
Gail wrote: "1. What is the intent behind the novel's astonishing accumulation of historical detail? What is the effect of Aue's descriptions of horrifying crimes in his detached, precise fashion?

I agree with..."


Gail great answers. I plan on answering when I get home from vacation. I am on page 333 and I haven't read any this month yet. I plan on finishing the book. I liked the first 100 pages best but it has gone downhill from there. I hope it changes tone or something.


Tatjana JP | 295 comments I just started the book and I am around 10%. So far I really liked the introduction - Toccata. So powerful in asking the most important question on responsibility of each individual when part of the system - even evil one like Nazi state. Further it's just too much of bureaucracy while killing people - I guess that was the point but makes me want to stop reading.
In reply to first question, others pointed out authors' need to persuade reader and get him involved in what was going on.
The second question relates to the most important issue of the book according to my opionio: who gives orders and who obeys them? Who is guilty and who is not? How we think when outside or in distant time frame compared to when certain things are happening to us and around us.
Third question is about Nazi bureaucratic system which only made easier to reach their goals. But it is maybe suggesting that evil is easier to function in perfect system of subordination and within huge organizations. Like it's easier to "infect" others in doing evil when organization like state is behind it. It is protecting your personal choices, while you don't need to think of ideology behind it.
So far no idea about music in relation to chapters.
Finally, homosexuality which was negatively seen was to accentuate how Aue has to be a part of the system, even if not personally following all official goals, views and ways of thinking and behavior.


Diane Zwang | 1315 comments Mod
1. He describes it as the business of war. “This was what I couldn't manage to grasp: the yawning gap, the absolute contradiction between the ease with which one can kill and the hug difficulty there must be in dying. For us, it was another dirty day's work; for them, the end of everything.”

“In a State like ours, everyone had his assigned role: You, the victim, and You, the executioner, and no one had a choice, no one asked anyone's consent, since everyone was interchangeable, victims as well as executioners.”

2. I think the author is asking the reader for forgiveness.
“But I don't think I'm the devil. There were always reasons for what I did. Good reasons or bad reasons, I don't know, in any case human reasons”.
“Those who kill are humans, just like those who are killed, that's what's terrible.”

3. The business of war. That they turned Genocide into a business. The amount of documentation the Nazi's did also contributed to their downfall, you cannot deny what is documented.

4. The author mentions he wanted to play the piano as a child. He pestered his mother into buying a piano but he quickly tires of practicing and gives it up. Then he admonishes his mother for not insisting he practice and that he could have played the piano.
“Bohr had found a young Jewish orphan and had adopted him as a mascot: the boy washed the cars, polished the officers' boots, and cleaned their pistols, but above all he played the piano like a young god, light, nimble, cheerful.

“Fingers like that excuse everything, even being Jewish.”

5. He mentions that he wouldn't mind being a woman but not a mother or wife but a sexual partner.

“I have never loved a single one of the boys I slept with, I just used them and their bodies, that's all.”

The bridge incident during college and entering the Sicherheitsdienst.


Chinook | 282 comments I just finally started - I’m listening to the audio, so I guess I’ll reply when I’ve listened to about a third of the audio.

One thing that struck me so far was the comparison of the numbers with the numbers of dead in Vietnam and he points out that the Americans never talk about the number of Vietnamese killed. And I think he does illustrate an important point there - if Germany had been the victors, only their own dead would likely have counted in the length of history to most people, just as today you hear plenty in the US papers about the numbers killed on 9/11 or in Afghanistan and Iraq but little about the casualties on the other side, much less any real emotional concern for those losses. Certainly not the American wars today, there are targets and collateral damages - just as bureaucratic a language as the Nazis used.


Chinook | 282 comments 1. What is the intent behind the novel's astonishing accumulation of historical detail? What is the effect of Aue's descriptions of horrifying crimes in his detached, precise fashion?

The constant details are really drawing me into his reality and day to day. The administration and the bureaucracy and he petty feuds between men scrambling for position. I feel like it also gives him a shield between himself and what is happening in front of him, to talk about the validity of the orders based on who gave them or the minute details of who qualifies as a Jew.

2. "I am a man like other men, I am a man like you. I tell you I am just like you!" So says Aue at the beginning of the novel. Is he? "I am guilty, you're not, fine - but you might also have done what I did." What do you think the author is asking the reader here?

I think he’s probably right. Not everyone just goes along but I think none of us have any idea if we would just follow orders or take a stand until faced with the actual need to make that choice.

3. What does the importance of bureaucracy, management, and politics to The Kindly Ones contribute to its portrait of Nazi Germany?

It’s very mechanical and distancing, using the bureaucracy and the various levels of groups who overlap in their areas. The politics are actually more than I expected - I don’t know that I’ve ever really heard the concept of German space discussed in such detail before, in terms of various parts of the world because I think I’ve always encountered these stories from the other side of things.

4. Why is The Kindly Ones divided into musical sections (Toccata, Sarabande . . .). What is the significance of music, the arts, and intellectual life more generally in The Kindly Ones?

I think that the author wants to make sure we understand as readers that the killers weren’t just barbarians or mad men or cruel - they were also creative or academic or cultured. And I think for our main character this is another layer of thought that helps him feel removed from his own actions and his feelings about what’s happening.

5. What does Aue's sexuality contribute to your sense of his personality?

It seems to me that his sexuality is incredibly messed up - and I think he’d like to attribute it to the incident with the girl and his punishment at the boarding school, where he’s abused but then there are stories about somewhat fetishistic behaviour even before that, as a young child in the forest.

I also think it contributes to understanding Awe’s thesis, that war doesn’t just take away the rights of the victims to life but also the rights of the aggressors to not participate. He’s caught by the police for homosexual activity and his choice to then get involved with the Nazis is understandable- it’s his only choice that doesn’t lead to being a victim himself. And then, suspicions by other officers also keep him somewhat stuck playing the game, toeing the line. This all hangs over him and it limits any options he might have had to try and subvert what’s going on.


message 13: by Diane (last edited Sep 29, 2018 08:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 2051 comments 1. What is the intent behind the novel's astonishing accumulation of historical detail? What is the effect of Aue's descriptions of horrifying crimes in his detached, precise fashion?
I think the detail makes the book much more realistic and believable as a fictional memoir. He describes horrific events as though it was just another day on the job. Perhaps it is his way of detaching himself from the atrocities being committed or maybe it shows his lack of affect and emotion.

2. "I am a man like other men, I am a man like you. I tell you I am just like you!" So says Aue at the beginning of the novel. Is he? "I am guilty, you're not, fine - but you might also have done what I did." What do you think the author is asking the reader here?
He is asking the reader to empathize with the situation imposed upon him and think what they would have done if in his circumstances. People do things they would never imagine doing in times of war. He implies that most people would have done the same as he did. He also wants the reader to see him as human and not condemn him.

3. What does the importance of bureaucracy, management, and politics to The Kindly Ones contribute to its portrait of Nazi Germany?
There seems to be a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of brainwashing of the citizens by those in positions of power. I am sure that many people bought in to what they were being fed by their government, but others probably complied out of fear.

4. Why is The Kindly Ones divided into musical sections (Toccata, Sarabande . . .). What is the significance of music, the arts, and intellectual life more generally in The Kindly Ones?
I found this similar to Faust by Thomas Mann, which followed a similar pattern. Classical music is a big deal in Germany, as it was home to many great composers throughout history. He chose an orchestral suite (Bach?) and matched the mood/tone/tempo of the chapter to that of the particular musical movement. The use of music also probably helps make him appear less barbaric.

5. What does Aue's sexuality contribute to your sense of his personality?
This reminded me of something you might see in a Greek tragedy with the incestuous overtones. His frustration with the outcome of that initial relationship has resulted in some sexual confusion for him, incidences of deviant behavior, and difficulty sustaining meaningful relationships.


back to top