Headline, April25, 2013



With just under 1000 pages of genocidal atrocities, Nazis and moral philosophising, ''The Kindly Ones'' is quiet some book. The French love it. Le Figaro called it ''a monument of world literature''.

Clearly, the 47- year- old Jonathan Little has created a phenomenon, not least because of his exceptional achievement. A bilingual American writer, he was raised in France but lives in Spain and wrote this, his first serious book, in French.

The novel is the memoir of an SS officer who escaped from Germany at the end of war. Max Aue now runs a French Lace factory but, as a young man, he was present at many of the worst Nazi atrocities. As the Russian invasion unfolds, Aue is slaughtering Jews in the Ukraine. He is transferred to Stalingrad, survives being shot in the head and returns to Berlin where he joins Himmler's staff to oversee the use of slave labour.

We know the Germans were absurdly bureaucratic  -their meticulous book keeping has made the Holocaust a matter of historical record. But Little seems to think he is the first one to spot the use of euphemism, as in, ''The Jews have been conveyed to the special treatment, ''instead of gassed''.

Many of the characters are real, from Himmler and Eichmann, down to lower ranking officers. Yet, ever so often, Little writes superbly. The young engineer stepping over a labourer drowning in mud, his head cracked upon by a zealous overseer, says far more about Nazi desensitising than the endless pages describing the bureaucratic process. The gang of feral children loose behind the Russian front line, casually killing every stray soldier they encounter is simply unforgettable.

Le Nouvel Obsevateur said it was ''a new War and Peace. Le Monde also compared its author to Tolstoy, as well as to Pasternak, Flaubert and Dostoyevsky. The work won both of France's leading literary prizes and has sold millions of copies the world over.

But all this praise aside, to many other critics it is the most glibly absurd book. Nazi cliches abound. Kant and Hegel are debated in ways we are meant to think profound, but Aue's arguments are just the usual, desperate moral hair-splitting that Nazi apologists always peddle.

In the end, and in fair judgement, one can only conclude that there's an excellent 300 page novel lurking in these myriad pages.

With respectful dedication to all the Historians of the world.

Good Night & God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!