Les Bienveillantes

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American born Jonathan Littel wrote this best-seller in French and went on to win both the Prix de l'Académie Française and the prestigious Prix Goncourt.

Les Bienveillantes.

Has anybody else read it, yet?

Michael White (Miguelito), Monday, 12 February 2007 20:58 (twelve years ago) Permalink

It's great that Dr. Aue is not a caricature of an SS officer, though he's believable as one. Nazis are so iconic that it's hard, even when writing history not to mention litracha, not to fall into the facile trap of writing them shallowly and without insight. The question of whether he's immoral or amoral is an interesting one and I haven't quite made up my mind.

Dr. Aue is not reliable as a narrator, is he? I'm not sure.

This is one of the most disgusting books I have ever read both in terms of the events that he recounts and the constant scatological, sexual, nauseating and genocidal imaginings of the narrator but those passages that are supposed to be erotic, work surprisingly well though their proximity to the rest of the récit is troubling.

I'm still working on the significance of the cops for Littel as well as the meaning of Leland and Mandelwhatever.

This isn't magical realism but the hallucinatory qualities of some of the book along with the dreams and delirium are outstanding. It's not horror either as there's none of the sense of foreboding and eerieness that that genre requires. It's often little more than unrelenting but fascinating disgust. Everybody knows that they were more than just cold hearted killers but many were sleazy gangster types as well, but Littel's description of the office politics, the corporate ladder, so to speak, and the bureaucratic nightmare of Nazi Germany is as terrifiying as any volitional malevolence.

Just as some English people, perhaps through racism, detected something foreign about Conrad's prose, I feel like I can detect something American in Littel's writing. His French is excellent and thoroughly convincing and maybe my perception is more suggestion than reality but strangely, the occasional and slight oddness is well suited to a narrative supposedly written by a francophone German.

For all the criticism that Schindler's list and other books and movies get for telling the story of the Holocaust not from the Jewish persective or the perspective of some other class of victim, this book sidesteps this interestingly. It's not a book about the suffering of the Jews. It's a book about the suffering of the Germans, of what a generation of Germans brought upon themselves; the ruined cities, the tarnished pride, the millions of war dead, the fear, suffering, and deprivation.

I'm really, really curious to know what Littel thinks of Borges' 'Deutsches Requiem'.


**Interesting article

2008's Hottest Book?

Le Figaro's Man of the Year

Michael White (Miguelito), Monday, 12 February 2007 20:59 (twelve years ago) Permalink

This was probably the best book I read in 2006. Very intense, I couldn't put it down even though it is indeed one of the most disgusting books I have read. Most of the people I know who read it took a long time to do so because they were so put off by the coldness with which he recalls past actions, by the rawness of his descriptions.

Urgh, I've been trying to write a post for about 10 minutes with no success at all, which bothers me. I'll come back later when I can actually say something.

jibe (jibe), Tuesday, 13 February 2007 11:24 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Pouquoi tu es né en Inde, jibe?

Michael White (Miguelito), Friday, 16 February 2007 16:08 (twelve years ago) Permalink


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