Monday, April 27, 2009

The Kindly Ones

a novel by Jonathan Littell; translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell

Quickie Recap: Max Aue is an SS soldier not particularly interested in killing, but involved in the mess anyhow.

Quickie Review: First, let me tell you that though this was a translation, it never felt like one. Kudos to both Littell and Mandell for such beautiful language. This book took me months to get through, no kidding, and not just because it's nearly 1000 pages long (and probably doesn't need to be, if I'm being honest). It's just painful, repellent, sickening. And not just for the brutality, but also for the lack of it, the deliberateness, the cold pursuit. Yes, there are blood thirsty soldiers who enjoy, relish the killing. And there are people who are following orders, people who want job security, people who are just along for the ride. But they all do it. And maybe at the end of the day, apathy is just as bad as evil. There are scenes of blood and piss and shit, but the enormity is more bureaucratic which is even more maddening. You watch the decisions being made, the ones that could either make or break a genocide, and so little consideration for the actual people. Politically, it's very interesting, those who believed that the "Jewish question" should be made the first priority, and those who felt that winning the war should come first. And indeed, you do see how using the Jews as labour may have contributed to success, but how they kept taking off work in order to be exterminated...and how that need to wipe out a people pretty much led to the nazi downfall.

Quickie Recommendation: It's not for everyone, but it's a great piece of historical fiction that put a lot of thoughts into my head. If you were German, if you were in those shoes, what would you have done? Aue insists that he is like us, and we have to ask ourselves how much of that is true. It's fucking hard to read, but it's meant to be. This is not fun stuff. Gird your loins, but I think it does exactly what it's supposed to.

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