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Les Bienveillantes : Coffret by Jonathan…

Les Bienveillantes : Coffret (original 2006; edition 2008)

by Jonathan Littell

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2,038743,278 (3.9)112
Title:Les Bienveillantes : Coffret
Authors:Jonathan Littell
Info:Editions Gallimard (2008), Poche, 1401 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell (2006)


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English (45)  Dutch (12)  French (6)  Spanish (6)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  Finnish (1)  Swedish (1)  Czech (1)  All (74)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
The Kindly Ones Jonathan Littell

This is the story of Max Aue a German homosexual who also happens to be an officer in the SS, having survived the war he now wants to tell his story in his own words and explain why he was party to the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

Accused of being a homosexual Aue is blackmailed into joining the SD a branch of the SS to avoid prosecution which would more than likely result in his death. Aue is sent to the Ukraine where he witnesses and records the work of the death squads as they clear the area of Jews, he details how the work is made more efficient by using the sardine technique where the condemned dig their own graves lie down in them like sardines and are shot in the back of the head, he also details how the killers are either driven mad by the work or come to enjoy it too much.

Aue falls out of favour and is posted to the siege of Stalingrad where he is shot through the head a wound that although he survives with no noticeable physical side affects leads to him being posted back to Berlin to work closely with Speer on the Jewish question and ways of making a work force of prisoners supplied by the work camps work more efficiently.

This had the potential to be a great book however it was ruined by the detailed minutiae of German ranks and the constant obsession with diarrhea, deviant sexual fantasies and incest.

The parts I found interesting were the way the Germans were investigating the heritage of Jews in the Ukraine and Russia based on their language and use of ritual as well as their ancestry. It was also horribly compelling the way Aue was involved in trying to secure a work force of camp prisoners for the German war effort by arguing for livable rations but only for those who could work allowing "natural selection" to remove those who were a burden.

Aue is bothered psychologically by what he witnesses and what he does however he believes war is war and that the enemies of the state deserve to die, he is also shocked when the German behavior of killing the Jews is compared with the allies killing innocents in their bombing raids.

This would have been an interesting book if the author had concentrated on Aue and the men around him and how and why they did what they did without having to bombard the reader with detailed analysis of German military ranks. Personally I would have cut all the details relating to diarrhea except where it had a valid point to make, I would have cut the incest completely because really there is no need for it in a novel about war the homosexuality was valid because it lead to difficulties for Aue but overall the level of detail about anal sex was way over the top.

It would be nice to read a book that felt no need to try and make itself unsavoury by using sex and instead concentrated on what was really important, the way the Germans justified what they did to the Jews.
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1 vote BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
Difficult book - never finished - Why such large sections dedicated to homosexual acts and thoughts. ( )
  busterrll | Sep 15, 2015 |
There were times while I was reading this that I thought perhaps the vast amount of history could have been cut. A thousand-page novel...really? When is that actually necessary?
Well, it is for this book.
I had also thought at times that the dialog could have been trimmed up for pacing. But then I also considered that the author was handling the dialog that way for a purpose, and that eventually the purpose would be revealed. It was, in the last 100 pages when the protagonist retreats to his sister's house and spends a bizarre few weeks there in isolation.
So, the two elements that I thought maybe could have been trimmed in the end revealed themselves as masterworks by the author. I don't want to say much more because, despite this being 1,000 pages long, there's actually not much I can detail without providing spoilers.
Know this one thing: The most important revelation comes literally with the last sentence. The entire work...how the history is handled, that dialog, the protagonist's journey through the war as well as his personal events...all come together in that single masterful last sentence.
This is a brilliant novel. Well worth the dedication to read all 1,000 pages. ( )
1 vote Laine-Cunningham | Feb 22, 2015 |
Horrifying book ( )
  Wmt477 | Jul 11, 2014 |
not a perfect book, but one so vital, so important and so shattering that everyone should read it. The challenge from Dr Aue, SS man and lace factory owner is simply = 'What would you do, if you'd been there?' Littell takes us from the killing fields of the Ukraine and the Caucases to the fall of Stalingrad and the apocalypse of Berlin. We experience the killing squads working out how to murder; the dashing SS officers seducing young girls and boys, the industrialisation of the camps and the bureaucracy of genocide. And at the same time we experience this with Dr Aue, through his psychosexual traumas, stresses and his assent to the most horrific of crimes. The war in the east was not a war for gentlemen. And yet anyone who has worked in an ordinary office or lived an ordinary life will see parallels with the decisions and actions that we take part in every day. Extraordinary and overwhelming
1 vote otterley | May 14, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Some of these ambitions are brilliantly realized; others much less so. But all of them make Littell’s book a serious one, deserving of serious treatment.

While some will denounce Littell’s cool-eyed authorial sympathy for Aue as “obscene”—and by “sympathy” I mean simply his attempt to comprehend the character—his project seems infinitely more valuable than the reflexive gesture of writing off all those millions of killers as “monsters” or “inhuman,” which allows us too easily to draw a solid line between “them” and “us.” [...] Aue is a human brother with whom we can sympathize (by which I mean, accept that he is not simply “inhuman”), or he is a sex-crazed, incestuous, homosexual, matricidal coprophage; but you can’t have your Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte and eat it, too.
The novel’s gushing fans [...] seem to have mistaken perversity for daring, pretension for ambition, an odious stunt for contrarian cleverness. Willfully sensationalistic and deliberately repellent, “The Kindly Ones” [...] is an overstuffed suitcase of a book, consisting of an endless succession of scenes in which Jews are tortured, mutilated, shot, gassed or stuffed in ovens, intercut with an equally endless succession of scenes chronicling the narrator’s incestuous and sadomasochistic fantasies.

The novel [...] reads like a pointless compilation of atrocities and anti-Semitic remarks, pointlessly combined with a gross collection of sexual fantasies.
Notwithstanding the controversial subject matter, this is an extraordinarily powerful novel that leads the stunned reader through extremes of both realism and surrealism on an exhausting journey through some of the darkest recesses of European history.

The Kindly Ones reveals something that is desperate and depressing but profoundly important, now as ever. Max Aue, the SS executioner, states the truth with typically brutal clarity: "I am a man like other men, I am a man like you."
added by Widsith | editThe Guardian, Jason Burke (Feb 22, 2009)
Littell has been very faithful to real events: his research is impressive [...] Littell, a Jew, rightly believes that the prime duty of a writer as well as a historian is to understand. He has succeeded in putting himself inside the tortured mind of his character.

The Kindly Ones never descends into the sort of faction that is the curse of contemporary history [...] a great work of literary fiction, to which readers and scholars will turn for decades to come.
added by Widsith | editThe Times, Antony Beevor (Feb 20, 2009)
The novel is diabolically (and I use the word advisedly) clever. It is also impressive, not merely as an act of impersonation but perhaps above all for the fiendish diligence with which it is carried out. [...] This tour de force, which not everyone will welcome, outclasses all other fictions and will continue to do so for some time to come. No summary can do it justice.
added by Widsith | editThe Spectator, Anita Brookner (Nov 30, 2006)

» Add other authors (41 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan Littellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Botto, MargheritaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fontana, LucioCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Für die Toten
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Oh my human brothers, let me tell you how it happened.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061353450, Hardcover)

Named one of the "100 Best Books of the Decade" by The Times of London

"Oh my human brothers, let me tell you how it happened."

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:33 -0400)

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Fictional memoir of Dr. Max Aue, a former Nazi officer who survived the war and has reinvented himself, many years later, as a middle-class entrepreneur and family man in northern France. Max is 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 the horrors of the Second World War and the Nazi genocide of the Jews in graphic, disturbingly precise detail from the dark and disturbing point of view of the executioner rather than the victim. During the period from June 1941 through April 1945, Max is posted to Poland, the Ukraine, and the Caucasus; he is present at the Battle of Stalingrad, at Auschwitz and Cracow; he visits occupied Paris and lives through the chaos of the final days of the Nazi regime in Berlin. Although Max is a totally imagined character, his world is peopled by real historical figures, such as Eichmann, Himmler, Goring, Speer, Heydrich, Hoss, and Hitler himself.… (more)

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