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The Kindly Ones
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Diane Zwang | 1309 comments Mod
Put your review and star rating here.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4248 comments Mod
The story of Max Aue, a German/French man who served in WWII. He is a lucky man but a very "sick" man. Max is guilty of murder of children, women, he is guilty of incest, and he is guilty of matricide. Yet, he states in the beginning of the book, "I am a man like you". The book examines a lot of philosophies and political ideology and historically it was an interesting read but the sexual and autoerotic "crap" and I use that word both as description and literal was beyond what I feel is necessary in a book to get the point across.

I liked the parts where Littell examines different people groups, how he shows that many nations have acted similarly. He made many interesting comments about Political ideologies and ethnic cleansing.

Littell is an American born author who chose to write in French. He won the Goncourt, Grand Prix du Roman de L'Academie francaise, and Bad Sex in Fiction Award among other homors.

This title is based on Greek mythology of Aeschylus's trilogy, The Oresteia who kills his parents and has sex with his sister and then is judged but given clemency by the Furies who are renamed the Eumenides or Kindly Ones.

Rating 3.167 (would have been higher if I would not have been forced to read pages and pages of autoerotica, feces, urine, semen.


Diane Zwang | 1309 comments Mod
Kristel wrote: "The story of Max Aue, a German/French man who served in WWII. He is a lucky man but a very "sick" man. Max is guilty of murder of children, women, he is guilty of incest, and he is guilty of matric..."

Kristel you hit the nail on the head. I couldn't agree with you more. The constant mention of body fluids was too much.


message 4: by Diane (last edited Sep 12, 2018 11:58AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diane Zwang | 1309 comments Mod
3/5 stars

Named one of the "100 Best Books of the Decade" by The Times of London.
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.

This is a unique novel told through the eyes of Max Aue, a jurist (lawyer) who becomes a fascist and joins the Third Reich. Aue becomes an officer and despite his ineptitude moves up the ranks throughout the war. The narrator is detached from emotion and the horrors of the Holocaust are told in a matter of fact way. The story moves more toward Aue's personality. He is I think a sociopath, he has dysfunctional relationships with his mother, sister and many others who cross his path. There is an inordinate amount of description of bodily fluids which I could have done without.

“For that is what total war means: there is no such thing as a civilian, and the only difference between the Jewish child gassed or shot and the German child burned alive in an air raid is one of method; both deaths were equally vain, neither of them shortened the war by so much as a second; but in both cases, the man or men who killed them believed it was just and necessary; and if they were wrong, who's to blame?”

“Instead I ended up a jurist, a State security official, an SS officer, and then a director of a lace factory.”

“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.”

“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 huge difficulty there must be in dying. For us, it was another dirty day's work; for them, the end of everything.”

"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.”


Chinook | 282 comments That is one hell of a read.

First off, I read it with a group and I think in general I reacted relatively differently to the main character than most. Yes, there is incest. Yes, there is some very challenging fetish/sexual fantasizing. Yes, he’s killed people. And certainly, he was a Nazi officer.

The thing is - he’s also a victim, something I felt doesn’t get a lot of consideration. He’s sent away to a boarding school where he’s the victim of abuse and it was very much known and accepted by the adults around him. I’m not sure why we’d ever expect of adults during wartime who were so abused and regularly treated violently just as a part of their upbringing that they are suddenly going to show compassion and horror at violence committed to other women and children. It’s something I think maybe doesn’t get anywhere near enough discussion anywhere, actually, that our society can allow so much abuse of women and children happen, often by loved ones or trusted community figures during normal day to day life and yet somehow expect those same men during war to not think that violence against civilians is a problem, a line they can’t cross.

This book really is about contemplating what it means to be guilty. Aue will try and tell you he doesn’t feel guilt and remorse, but it’s pretty clear he’s not being honest - he’s physically ill as the result of his participation in the final solution. The more he can retreat into bureaucracy, the fewer physical symptoms he has, but when he ends up on the front lines of it again the issue returns. It started as some very odd splinters he gets while watching people murdered in a forest and goes on to be constant vomiting.

He also spends a decent chunk of time trying to get tbe concentration camp inmates extra rations, better travelling conditions, supplies for the forced marches. Yes, he’s doing it because it’s his job to maximize the forced labour resource, but if he’d succeeded at his goal, what does that mean for his complicity?

After all, he’s forced into his position in the first place because it’s that or get charged with being a homosexual, which was also a death sentence. And he is sent to Stalingrad for suspicions that he is gay later, with the clear intent that he’ll die there. What is his responsibility to us, from our position in the future, to stand up to his entire society at the risk of his life, when he himself isn’t coming from a strong position? Could it be that the way he does struggle to maintain some level of non-sadistic behaviour is an impressive feat?

I also find it interesting to look at his position regarding PTSD or mental issues as the result of his experiences on the front. He’s clearly very messed up in and after Stalingrad. And then later a character is introduced with a similar head wound who has fits of uncontrollable rage because of his injury - is the reader meant to extrapolate this to Aue’s situation with his mother and stepfather? I mean, I feel like society as a whole feels very concerned for Vietnam vets, on the street, doing drugs, suffering from untreated mental illnesses - and many of not all of them will have also killed civilians. Knowingly. So how do we approach this guy differently? It makes me wonder if what isn’t hardest for the reader is that he doesn’t end up a wreck who can’t function in peacetime society after - because he does. I get no sense that he’s a happy man, but he’s a fictional one in spite of his experiences. Is his biggest crime that he was on the losing side? Would we react similarly to this book if he’d been a pilot bombing Dresden?

He’s a distasteful guy, Aue. He doesn’t perform any sorts of heroics on behalf of the victims. He has incredibly unpalatable sexual fantasies and certainly some very messed up sexual experiences.. He talks more about his bodily fluids than most are going to be comfortable with. And he’s have you believe that he doesn’t feel guilty about any of it.

Is he a person just like the rest of us? Might we all perhaps do what he did we’re we in his shoes?

I think that so much of history since the Holocaust and contemporary events suggests that yes, he is. And yes, we would.

And I wonder if it’s more comfortable to hate this character, to find him disgusting, to refuse to see that he’s a normal person because if not, we’d have to look at what it says about all of us that we live in a society where such violence can go unchallenged.

And go unchallenged it does.


Gail (gailifer) | 1532 comments 4 stars
I am amazed that I finished the book. I can take no credit for it but can only credit Littell with a unique vision that kept me coming back even though I did not care for any of the main characters and certainly was not appreciating experiencing much of the realistic action or any of the mad visions described. Also, I didn't find the writing to be amazing and it was often tedious. (I just read Lolita and there is a book where the writing alone elevates you while the story degrades).

This is the story of both an individual officer in the National Socialists Nazi party and a story of the whole bureaucracy of that party. It is a story that forced me to confront where exactly the lines are drawn for what an intelligent, cultivated and educated man is capable of, and also where cultural "madness" resides. Our main character, Dr. Maximilian Aue, is both a victim of a broken home, of being a homosexual at a time when that was simply not allowed, a man who loved his sister physically and could not overcome the narcissistic needs to possess her as an adult. He is a true believer and practitioner of the Nazi Party philosophies although he questions some of the ways in which the party furthers its agenda. He regularly goes mad either through stress, exhaustion, a bullet in the head and confrontation with the worst of the war and the concentration camps but always survives to work again. He participates in crimes of the absolutely worst personal nature (killing his mother) and participates in the worst crimes that a society inflicts on its citizens and yet he is not punished nor does he go thoroughly mad. In this way, he has "mad" luck. The Kindly Ones of the title represent the furies demanding justice but the book does not finalize with any specific justice. One does not even find oneself believing that the good guys won. There are no good guys in this book and the whole book speaks to the horrors that were experienced by individuals caught up in a time and a philosophy that was extreme but not as extreme as we would hope. Littell points out to us that it was one time, and there have been others and there are likely to be others....the furies are still with us.


Diane  | 2051 comments Rating: 3.5 stars

Definitely not an easy read in terms of content. I also think it could have been MUCH shorter. I do appreciate the amazing amount of research the author did and the detail of the historical events. Even though it certainly was not enjoyable, I am glad that I read it.


message 8: by Pip (last edited Oct 01, 2018 12:23AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pip | 1473 comments This was a fascinating read. I started it the day I visited Dresden, which I Iast saw, unrestored, in 1990. While travelling through the Baltic States, which had a similar history to that of Ukraine, I was reading about the German push East and the atrocities which occurred. This book was obviously meticulously researched, and although the protagonist turned up at critical points such as the siege of Stalingrad, the massacre at Babi Yar and the Battle of Berlin, its plot was plausible. Littell forces the reader to confront the question of how cultured, intelligent individuals could be caught up in Nazi mythology and justify their behaviour. It is a long read, but a worthwhile one.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4248 comments Mod
Pip wrote: "This was a fascinating read. I started it the day I visited Dresden, which I Iast saw, unrestored, in 1990. While travelling through the Baltic States, which had a similar history to that of Ukrain..."
Nice review Pip.


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