The Kindly Ones: A Novel (Paperback)

The Kindly Ones: A Novel By Jonathan Littell Cover Image

The Kindly Ones: A Novel (Paperback)


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“Simply astounding. . . . The Kindly Ones is unmistakably the work of a profoundly gifted writer.” — Time

A literary prize-winner that has been an explosive bestseller all over the world, Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones has been called “a brilliant Holocaust novel. . . a world-class masterpiece of astonishing brutality, originality, and force,” (Michael Korda, The Daily Beast). Destined to join the pantheon of classic epics of war such as Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, The Kindly Ones offers a profound and gripping experience of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust.

A former Nazi officer, Dr. Maximilien Aue has reinvented himself, many years after the war, as a middle-class family man and factory owner in France. An intellectual steeped in philosophy, literature, and classical music, he is also a cold-blooded assassin and the consummate bureaucrat. Through the eyes of this cultivated yet monstrous man we experience in disturbingly precise detail the horrors of the Second World War and the Nazi genocide of the Jews. Eichmann, Himmler, Göring, Speer, Heydrich, Höss—even Hitler himself—play a role in Max's story. An intense and hallucinatory historical epic, The Kindly Ones is also a morally challenging read. It holds a mirror up to humanity—and the reader cannot look away.

Jonathan Littell was born in New York to American parents, and grew up in the United States and France. He lives in Barcelona, Spain.

“The force and clarity with which Littell renders the physical realities of war and mass murder are simply astounding. . . . The Kindly Ones is unmistakably the work of a profoundly gifted writer.” — Time magazine

“A vast fictional exploration of banal, everyday evil, as related by a Nazi officer. . . . The closing is a tour de force. But so is the entire book—very long, but with not a wasted word.” — Kirkus Reviews (Starred)

“Littell has created a compelling witness to the extraordinary events that punctuated the Third Reich...Littell has assiduously researched the large events he depicts; however, it is his own creative imagination that gives substance to the narrator’s broodings on his involvement in horrific deeds.” — Booklist (starred review)

“A near-masterpiece of historical fiction.” — Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers

“An alternately fascinating and impressively researched novel. . . . Its feverish voice is weirdly mesmerizing, the scope awesome.” — Newark Star Ledger

“Language that can be at once cold and beautiful . . . at times uncomfortably mesmerizing. Like it or not, it’s the sort of rare book that leads to rereading, study, argument and, perhaps, canonization.” — Austin American-Statesman

“These detailed descriptions of how the extermination of Jews was systematically implemented on an institutional level seem a much-needed dose of reality when contrasted with the fairy-tale quality of recent Holocaust fiction. . . . Juxtaposed with well-researched realism are internal flights of fancy with feverish dream passages.” — The Jewish Daily Forward

“A world-class masterpiece of astonishing brutality, originality, and force.” — The Daily Beast

“A brilliant Holocaust novel…A world-class masterpiece of astonishing brutality, originality, and force…I read it without pausing for breath, so powerful and terrifying was its portrayal of Nazi Germany, and of the Holocaust....Littell is a genius, both as a historian, and as a novelist...relentlessly fascinating, ambitious beyond scope.” — Michael Korda, The Daily Beast

“If you’re like me, you will read this book to the end with a mixture of fascination and disgust toward its narrator, and admiration for the author who created him. . . . If Littell wanted to leave the reader with unresolved questions that will continue to haunt us, he has succeeded brilliantly.” — Boston Sunday Globe

“A great work of literary fiction, to which readers and scholars will turn for decades to come.” — Antony Beevor, The Times (London)

“The meticulously realistic main plot of The Kindly Ones is brilliantly organized and written…” — BookForum

“Unquestionably brilliant…Littell is a gifted writer and what he achieves…is unparalleled…The novel [is] scrupulous in its period details and…generous in its scope” — The Nation

“An extraordinarily powerful novel…. Above all, it is a sophisticated exploration of issues of morality, evil and luck… The novel as a whole brilliantly shows how ‘ordinary men’ become killers.” — The Observer (London)