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

6. "Doctor," I said solemnly, "you are wiser than I am." - "I never doubted it for an instant, Obersturmbannführer. But I don't have your mad luck."
What is Aue's mad luck, referred to by the doctor in this passage from near the end of the book?

7. Describe Max Aue. What does the author want you to feel for him and think about him, and how does he try to provoke those responses?

8. How much does family matter in The Kindly Ones? You might consider Max's relationship with Una, what happens to his mother and Moreau in Antibes, the disappearance of his father, etc.

9. Implicitly repudiating Hannah Arendt's terms, Aue claims that Eichmann was never "an incarnation of banal evil, a soulless, faceless robot." Why? What do his reasons tell us about Aue himself?

10. Reviewing the novel in the Times Literary Supplement, Justin Beplate commented that "The chief difficulty one encounters in The Kindly Ones . . . is how far the particular aesthetic and formal concerns of literary writing can accommodate such subject matter." How would you comment on this?


Kristel (kristelh) | 4264 comments Mod
August: 325 to 650

Allemandes I and II ends on page 335.

Courante Pages 339 to 427. (a 16th-century court dance consisting of short advances and retreats.
a piece of music written for or in the style of a courante, typically one forming a movement of a suite.)

Sarabande pages 431 to 534 (sar·a·band--a slow, stately Spanish dance in triple time.
a piece of music written for a saraband.

Menuet (En Rondeaux) pages 537 to 864) we would be reading to 650.
Minuet in the Classical period
A minuet (/ˌmɪnjuˈɛt/; also spelled menuet) is a social dance of French origin for two people, usually in 3
4 time. The word was adapted from Italian minuetto and French menuet, possibly from the French menu meaning slender, small, referring to the very small steps, or from the early 17th-century popular group dances called branle à mener or amener.


The term also describes the musical style[clarification needed] that accompanies the dance, which subsequently developed more fully, often with a longer musical form called the minuet and trio, and was much used as a movement in the early classical symphony.

A rondeau (plural rondeaux) is a form of medieval and Renaissance French poetry, as well as the corresponding musical chanson form. Together with the ballade and the virelai it was considered one of the three formes fixes, and one of the verse forms in France most commonly set to music between the late 13th and the 15th centuries. It is structured around a fixed pattern of repetition of material involving a refrain. The rondeau is believed to have originated in dance songs involving alternating singing of the refrain elements by a group and of the other lines by a soloist.[1] The term "Rondeau" is today used both in a wider sense, covering several older variants of the form – which are sometimes distinguished as the triolet and rondel – and in a narrower sense referring to a 15-line variant which developed from these forms in the 15th and 16th centuries.


Diane Zwang | 1315 comments Mod
7. This is the million dollar question. He is an odd character to say the least. Max is not a likable character and I think we are suppose to despise him. He is a pedophile (he likes boys), he has an incestuous relationship with his sister and he kills his mother and her husband. He is a Fascist in the Nazi army and participates in genocide, so I don't know what else this character could do to make me hate him more.

8. Family relationships are strained in this story. I think that Fascism and the Nazi party matter more to Max than family. He loves his sister but he does not want the relationship to change from what it was during childhood. Max holds on to the past and can't move on. He hates his sister for getting married and he blames his mother for his father's disappearance. Again, more reasons to hate Max.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4264 comments Mod
I have arrived at page 442, Sarabande. Max is lucky to have escaped Russia. He is back in Germany recovering and he has been made a war hero. There is nothing to like about him as Diane has pointed out above.

Max has no family connection. He really has no relationships with anyone that have any depth.


Gail (gailifer) | 1543 comments I am about 2/3rds of the way through the book so I guess I am on schedule. There have been many times when I have just wanted to throw in the towel but other times when I have been eagerly reading even though there is nothing or no one in the book that I enjoy reading about. It is truly a strange book.

6. "Doctor," I said solemnly, "you are wiser than I am." - "I never doubted it for an instant, Obersturmbannführer. But I don't have your mad luck."
What is Aue's mad luck, referred to by the doctor in this passage from near the end of the book?

He has been lucky in many ways. He lives in a country and at a time when most of his crimes are not considered criminal. For crimes he has committed that are against the law, he has not been caught. He has escaped Stalingrad which most of the German army did not and although he was badly wounded he has survived that also. Further, he is lucky in that his personal beliefs are mirrored by the times. Although he considers himself an outsider because of this sexual preferences and his "refined" tastes, he is actually rather typical in some ways of other SS officers in that they all seem to be studies in contrasts.

7. Describe Max Aue. What does the author want you to feel for him and think about him, and how does he try to provoke those responses?

Well, I believe the author wants you to hate him but have a bit of ambiguity around that hate so that the reader will keep reading. All his compulsion to speak frequently of feces and gastrointestinal problems, the horribly narcissistic sexuality he has, the supposed cultured learning that does little to soften his baseness all add up to someone truly without redeeming qualities. Yet here I am reading page after page of his rational for feeding the prisoners more food so that their productivity will increase.

8. How much does family matter in The Kindly Ones? You might consider Max's relationship with Una, what happens to his mother and Moreau in Antibes, the disappearance of his father, etc.

The family as described in the book is the inverse of what I usually think of as family. There is no welcome home here. There is no intimate understanding that protects you from the outside world. His relationship with Una is not a relationship with a sister, his relationship with his mother is not....

9. Implicitly repudiating Hannah Arendt's terms, Aue claims that Eichmann was never "an incarnation of banal evil, a soulless, faceless robot." Why? What do his reasons tell us about Aue himself?

Again, I believe the author needs the reader to understand that humans are all capable of monstrous thoughts and actions. Aue believes himself to be very normal in this way and he sees Eichmann as someone who is very much like himself. He sees him as just attempting to solve a problem for the greater good.

10. Reviewing the novel in the Times Literary Supplement, Justin Beplate commented that "The chief difficulty one encounters in The Kindly Ones . . . is how far the particular aesthetic and formal concerns of literary writing can accommodate such subject matter." How would you comment on this?

I think that the book is unique in its framing of wwII's moral crisis without spending much time on the war itself. Rather we are caught up in the incredible bureaucracy of the third reich. For me this sometimes works in an amazing way. For example on page 631 where Littell speaks of how language under National Socialism changed: "the Jews have been conveyed to the special treatment...and so things were done all by themselves, no on ever did anything, no one acted, they were actions without actors, which is always reassuring, and in a way they weren't event actions, since by the special usage that our National Socialist language made of certain nouns, one managed to...eliminate verbs..."

I am learning even if I am not enjoying and therefore I think that although literary writing can not accommodate the larger nature of the subject matter it is at least touching on it in an interesting way.

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Diane Zwang | 1315 comments Mod
6. "Doctor," I said solemnly, "you are wiser than I am." - "I never doubted it for an instant, Obersturmbannführer. But I don't have your mad luck."
What is Aue's mad luck, referred to by the doctor in this passage from near the end of the book?

Aue had mad luck throughout the book. I am not sure I remember this exact quote but Aue managed to get out of every sticky situation until the very end. And Mad is a good description given his personality.

9. Implicitly repudiating Hannah Arendt's terms, Aue claims that Eichmann was never "an incarnation of banal evil, a soulless, faceless robot." Why? What do his reasons tell us about Aue himself?

In this book Eichmann is painted as a very different person. His dialogue is very level headed. I think Gail answered the question very well.

10. Reviewing the novel in the Times Literary Supplement, Justin Beplate commented that "The chief difficulty one encounters in The Kindly Ones . . . is how far the particular aesthetic and formal concerns of literary writing can accommodate such subject matter." How would you comment on this?

I would say that the author really stretched his imagination and my patience. I felt the book was more about Aue than the Holocaust. Aue is taken on a downward spiral and we all go with him. It was not a pleasant journey.


Chinook | 282 comments 6. What is Aue's mad luck, referred to by the doctor in this passage from near the end of the book?

I’m not sure I’d call Aue lucky. I mean, anyone in the siege of Stalingrad at all is pretty damn unlucky. And he makes it out through a series of attempts by his friends to see that he does so - and he seems to be a person who, generally, is good at making friends and inspiring them to help him.

7. Describe Max Aue. What does the author want you to feel for him and think about him, and how does he try to provoke those responses?

I can’t decide if I’m meant to pity him or hate him. I think that I’m supposed to react with total disgust at the incest - but to be honest, I find the consensual incest considerably less horrifying than the abuse he endures at boarding school. I think the character’s guilt shines through when he’s part of the killing. I think his extreme PTSD after Stalingrad is something to pity. That he killed his mother and stepfather but remembers nothing - I mean, militaries often seem to think they can ask people to kill and be incredibly violent and impassive and then the soldiers come home and they can’t contain the violence and it spills out to their families - that’s absolutely not uncommon among American soldiers coming back from war.

Like - I would say that many people are very sympathetic to the plight of American Vietnam Vets, many of whom were unable to cope with normal life after the war, turning to Fergus, becoming homeless, etc. Those men for whom we have sympathy undoubtedly committed horrifying crimes against the civilian population. So if I’m meant to hate Aue, is it because of what he did? Or is it because he did what he did and manages to make a decent life afterwards instead of breaking down? Or...?

I don’t know. One thing I thought as I was reading the details of the treatment at boarding school and the punishment for homosexuality that existed then is that it seems so inevitable that people of that generation would grow up to commit horrors during war. They were subjected to so much violence as children, just in the process of growing up.

8. How much does family matter in The Kindly Ones?

I think family matters intensely in this story - in that the fracturing of his family drives Aue into adulthood. His father’s disappearance, the handing of the incest by his mother and stepfather - these things obsess him. It makes one wonder, with a better father, with a more concerned handling of the incest instead of punishment, could he have become a different man? I don’t know.

9. Implicitly repudiating Hannah Arendt's terms, Aue claims that Eichmann was never "an incarnation of banal evil, a soulless, faceless robot." Why? What do his reasons tell us about Aue himself?

He basically thinks that they are all just normal people who, subjected to unfortunate times and being put in the position of completing unfortunate tasks, they attempt to still do them to the best of their ability in the service of their country.

I’m not sure he’s wrong. We can see so many things that happen today, where horrifying things come out and there are always so many bystanders who ignore or enable. Or just do their jobs and do not contemplate the morality of what they are doing.

10. Reviewing the novel in the Times Literary Supplement, Justin Beplate commented that "The chief difficulty one encounters in The Kindly Ones . . . is how far the particular aesthetic and formal concerns of literary writing can accommodate such

No idea.


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Pip | 1483 comments 6. I agree with Chinook, that one could hardly describe being at the Battle of Stalingrad lucky. But Aue was severely wounded and would have been put out in the snow to die if an old friend and mentor Dr. Manderbrod had not intervened. His charm meant that he was often helped, particularly by his friend Thomas Hauser.
7. Max Aue is an educated man who justifies mass murder by philosophical musings. He likes fine wine, good literature and he admires the architecture of the places he visits, which promotes a sympathetic attitude in the reader. One thinks, I might have enjoyed the same sights if I had been there. On the other hand he overcomes his initial distaste for violence, he has an incestuous relationship with his sister and he probably murdered his mother and his step-father. As he describes what he does and sees the reader is absolutely horrified. So Littell's premise, that we are capable of similar atrocities in such circumstances is at the back of the reader's mind throughout the book.
8. Aue has warped relationships with his family, but they dominate his thoughts. He never forgives his mother for remarrying when there is no proof that his father is dead. She, in turn, cannot forgive him for becoming a Nazi. His sister is an apparent anti-Nazi, who moves to Switzerland and who probably bore the twins who are living with her mother. Although Max and Una are estranged he is obsessed with her and thinks about her constantly.
9. There is a quote at the beginning "I am a man like other men, I am a man like you". Littell is portraying in fiction how ordinary men become killers and how they justify their actions. There is a passage just past this section when Speer addresses the Nazi leaders in Posen, the transcript of which has survived and which repudiates the defence that an individual had to follow orders and did not know the extent of the atrocities. They knew and they couched their actions in euphemisms so they did not confront their conscience.


message 9: by Pip (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pip | 1483 comments 10. The reader is completely devastated by the description of events and how one deeply flawed individual responded to what was asked of him. Because the book was obviously extremely well researched the reader is compelled by the narrative while simultaneously being repelled by the history.


Diane  | 2051 comments 6. "Doctor," I said solemnly, "you are wiser than I am." - "I never doubted it for an instant, Obersturmbannführer. But I don't have your mad luck."
What is Aue's mad luck, referred to by the doctor in this passage from near the end of the book?
Aue manages to survive the war and get out of many close calls.

7. Describe Max Aue. What does the author want you to feel for him and think about him, and how does he try to provoke those responses?
I think the author wants you to both hate him for what he has done and participated in. I also believe he wants the reader to regard him as human and empathize with him and see how he, too, was a victim.

8. How much does family matter in The Kindly Ones? You might consider Max's relationship with Una, what happens to his mother and Moreau in Antibes, the disappearance of his father, etc.
He had an unnatural attraction for his sister. He resents his parents and is not close to them. He doesn't have strong family bonds.

9. Implicitly repudiating Hannah Arendt's terms, Aue claims that Eichmann was never "an incarnation of banal evil, a soulless, faceless robot." Why? What do his reasons tell us about Aue himself?
That this can happen to anyone if put in similar circumstances.

10. Reviewing the novel in the Times Literary Supplement, Justin Beplate commented that "The chief difficulty one encounters in The Kindly Ones . . . is how far the particular aesthetic and formal concerns of literary writing can accommodate such subject matter." How would you comment on this?
It is horrible to read about these events that really happened, but like a car wreck, it's hard to turn away. The reader needs to understand why this happened and how a human being could commit such atrocities to other humans.


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