Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Kindly Ones Roundup

This one seems like a corker: a new novel, written in French by an American, outlining in first-person the 1,000-page odyssey of a Nazi as he murders his parents and has sex with his twin sister.

Everybody's got something to say about it:

Paul La Farge, in the Believer:

When you’re talking about novels, the word for a completely worked-out world in which the characters act according to a grand design is escapist; when you’re talking about life, the word for a world like that is totalitarian.

Michiko Kakutani, in the New York Times:

The novel’s gushing fans seem to have mistaken perversity for daring, pretension for ambition, an odious stunt for contrarian cleverness.

Michael Korda, formerly of Simon & Schuster:

I guarantee you, if you read this book to the end, and if you have any kind of taste at all, you won’t be able to put it down for a moment — lay in snacks and drinks! — you will be upset, disturbed, revolted and deeply challenged.

Samuel Moyn, in the Nation:

Toward the end of the novel, [protagonist] Aue follows the death marches in the winter of 1945, the catastrophic months of the regime's collapse. And in the book's closing pages, he encounters Adolf Hitler in his bunker. Aue is a Nazi Zelig.

Claude Lanzmann, director of Shoah:

This man who doesn't know what a memory is somehow remembers everything.

Not exactly summertime beach-blanket reading, but worth a look.