You have never met a main character quite like Dr. Max Aue. This brilliant middle-class entrepreneur is deeply cultured, well read in philosophy and literature, a connoisseur of fine music. He is also a merciless assassin, a cold-blooded merchant of death, and a secret survivor of the Nazi genocide machine. Jonathan Littell’s epic, 992-page The Kindly Ones places Dr. Aue in front of us as a fictional but completely plausible creation of modern culture. This novel, written in French by an American author, won the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary award.
Book Review: ★★★★★★
I love to read about World War II, and particularly about the Nazi’s and the Holocaust. So when I picked this book up, I was really looking forward to a great new story, in this area. Boy, what a disappointment. I can’t say if this was a result of just a poor story all the way around, or if it was a really bad translation, because I know this book had really good reviews in its native language of French.
For starters the simple construction of the writing really gave me a hard time. There were paragraphs in this book that literally went on for three and four pages. I found myself having to read, and re-read just to figure out if something pertained to the paragraph it was in, or if the author was talking about something else entirely. It made the book really confusing, and hard to follow.
Another thing that I found that was very weird was the obsession of the main character in the area of his gastro-intestinal difficulties — on a very graphic nature. The main character would spend literally paragraphs describing his bowel movements, and the digestive problems that he had. Talk about a huge turn off.
He also seemed to be obsessed with his descriptions of his sexual exploits with men. Now, not that I am being prudish — but what I found strange about this is the time frame and era. I mean, homosexuals in Nazi, Germany fared only slightly better than those of Jewish descent. And yet to read this book, you would think that this was a regular pastime of the military personnel of the entire Nazi military. I really had a hard time getting that to compute. How did all of these men spend so much time in their sexual encounters — without ending up in a labor camp, Nazi jail, a torture chamber, or worse yet — in a gas chamber? It just didn’t ring very true to me. I’m sure it went on, it is human nature. But to the extent that this book implies — I find a little hard to believe.
I guess I just had a really hard time reconciling this story with my understanding of Nazi Germany during this era. This of course really detracted from the story, in a very significant way.
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