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Brilliant, frightening, furious, apocalyptic: The Kindly Ones is a literary tour de force and an explosive bestseller across Europe, selling over 1 million copies.
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Published: 04 March 2010
Genre: General & literary fiction
Dr Max Aue is a family man and owner of a lace factory in post-war France. He is an intellectual steeped in philosophy, literature, and classical music. He is also a former SS intelligence officer and cold-blooded assassin. He was an observer and then a participant in Nazi atrocities on the Eastern Front, he was present at the siege of Stalingrad, at the death camps, and finally caught up in the overthrow of the Nazis and the nightmarish fall of Berlin. His world was peopled by Eichmann, Himmler, Göring, Speer and, of course, Hitler himself. Max is looking back at his life with cool-eyed precision; he is speaking out now to set the record straight.
It is a great achievement to have made this horrific tale recounted by such a profoundly unsympathetic character so gripping...a great work of literary fiction, to which readers and scholars will turn for decades to come
Anthony Beevor, The Times
An extraordinarily powerful novel that leads the stunned reader on a journey through some of the darkest recesses of European history...reveals something that is desperate and depressing but profoundly important, now as ever
Everybody's talking about it [...] erudite, pitiless and mesmerising
A compelling and savage tale, with a cold dispassionate eye that never flinches from the raw reality of mass-murder... a serious attempt to describe the terrors of the Nazi regime
The book rises magnificently to its own occasions, building out of its fact-crammed but stately sentences a vast and phosphorescent tableaux vivants seething with Dantesque detail
The Kindly Ones is a brilliant book... Aue eloquently asks a familiar question - well, what would you have done in the same situation? Littell's mix of authority and weird reverie stunningly renders the question anew
Nor is The Kindly Ones only a great work of history and reflection, but full of striking literary writing: consummate adagios of landscape painting; lovely images and observations...even touches of macabre humour...inescapably impressive
Carole Angier, Literary Review
Its account of Nazi cruelty, chaos and callousness has never been surpassed in fiction... unforgettable...magnificent
London Review of Books
The force and cool detachment with which author Jonathan Littell describes the physical realities of war and mass murder are searing. He has spent years on his research and clings closely to the historical record but this fictional presentation brings the accounts horrifically alive
Mary Brodbin, Socialist Review
provides us with a remarkable, and multidimensional guide to human evil... the work itself is, above all, a tremendous argument for fiction
Michael Gove, The Times
This book has divided the world...if you want to read some of the best-expressed, most terrible arguments about why people become sadists... read The Kindly Ones. [...] inescapably impressive.
It's a compelling and provocative novel.
Charlotte Stretch, Time Out
The Kindly Ones has been hailed as the return of the great European realistic novel.
I dedicated most of the summer to Jonathan Littell's much-praised, internationally bestselling blockbuster and loved almost every minute of it... a magnificent achievement
James Delingpole, Spectator
An immense novel...The depth of detail is astounding and authentic
Doug Kemp, Historical Novels Review
Antony Beevor, Seven Magazine, Sunday Telegraph Books of the Year
An extremely disturbing novel
Toby Clements, Daily Telegraph
Remarkable and controversial novel
Jason Burke, Observer
Jonathan Littell veers between brilliance and bathos...
Sally Cousins, The Telegraph
Grotesque, dismaying, chilling in its focus on the fine detail of barbarism, this epic of evil is also addictively readable
Boyd Tonkin, Independent on Sunday
Compelling... utterly engaging... for anyone whose interest in his subjects is great to enough to bear their unflinching portrayal The Kindly Ones is an essential novel
Chris Power, The Times
It's an amazing picture of evil, wonderfully written (and very well translated from the original French by Charlotte Mandell), and left me feeling as though I had supped with the damned.
Jane Knight, The Times
This is a really hard book to review - but I felt so strongly about it that I wanted other people to know how brilliant it is. You follow the character Max Aue, a former German SS officer, through his experiences in the Second World War. Real life figures such as Eichmann, Himmler and Hitler appear - he lives through real battles, visits the freezing Eastern front and takes part in Nazi atrocities. But it's the horrendous treacheries of not just the war but his relationships with colleagues, friends, lovers, that really bring this book down from its grand scale, to the personal level which stays with you for a long time after you've finished reading. It's a big, powerful read, but definitely worth it. If you're in any way interested in the history of WW2, this fiction really brings the terror, farce and true horror of the war to a personal level.
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Jonathan Littell was born in 1967 in New York of American parents and brought up and educated mainly in France. This novel, originally published in France as Les Bienveillantes, became a bestseller and ...