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The Castle in the Forest: A Novel by Norman…

The Castle in the Forest: A Novel (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Norman Mailer

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1,0282812,772 (3.18)27
The narrator, a mysterious SS man in possession of some extraordinary secrets, takes the young Adolf Hitler from birth through his adolescence. En route, revealing portraits are offered of Hitler's father and mother, and his sisters and brothers. tapestry of unforgettable characters, "The castle in the forest" delivers its myriad twists and surprises with astonishing insight into the nature of the struggle between good and evil that exists in us all. At its core is a hypothesis that is employed with stunning originality.… (more)
Title:The Castle in the Forest: A Novel
Authors:Norman Mailer
Info:Random House (2007), Hardcover, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Read in 2007

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The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer (2007)



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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
I know Mailer is a fine writer, But halfway through this novel, I just had to quit and go scrub myself down in the tub. Fine, Norman, you can describe every bodily fluid in fine prose, but eventually, the characters are just one-dimensional props for middle-school level hangups.

Os. ( )
  Osbaldistone | Apr 6, 2019 |
What a sick bastard. I'm of course talking about Norman Mailer. ( )
  TAU67SEu | Feb 6, 2014 |
This is a fictionalized tale of the live of the Hitler's family starting with the birth of Adolf's father, Alois Hitler, in 1837 and finishing with Adolf obtaining his diploma from the Realschule in 1904. This part of the story is well done and read easily. I could really picture the life of peasants and civil servants in 19th century Austria.

The story is narrated in third-person by a Devil's minion. It removes some credibility to the tale even though it's a fictionalized version of their life. It could have been a four-star read if not for this artifice and some digression in the narration.

Overall, a well-worth read but one that might not appeal to everyone. ( )
  electrice | Jan 30, 2014 |
Interesting premise (devil observes life of young Hitler) but very bizarre and dull digressions. Lots of talk about piss and Nicholas II. Come on, Norman, you could've done better than this. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
There has always been something pre-Judeo-Christian about Norman Mailer's imagination. He has a Homeric sensibility that is also at home in ancient Egypt. Monotheism hardly appeals to the Manichean Mr. Mailer. So it does not surprise me that a devil masquerading as a member of the Nazi SS narrates Mr. Mailer's first novel in more than a decade, "The Castle in the Forest" (Random House, 496 pages, $27.95).

Modern psychology, Mr. Mailer implies, cannot account for the rise of Adolf Hitler. He has a point. There are many explanations for Hitler's rise to power, but no interpretation dominates the field. Mr. Mailer knows as much because he has poured over the contemporary literature on the Führer. The novelist appends an extensive bibliography to his work, even marking with an asterisk those books he drew on for inspiration and data.

But why the devil? Because no God-centered universe could possibly produce a Hitler, Mr. Mailer implies. Such evil is only conceivable in a divided cosmogony, in a contest between God and the E. O. (Mr. Mailer's acronym for the Evil One). For decades he has championed the idea of a seesaw conflict between the forces of good and evil. The devil in "The Castle in the Forest" is like one of those Ancient Greek gods who takes a special interest in a particular mortal and helps him out when it seems the human's strength of purpose may flag.

So Adolf — enabled but also enervated by mother-love — needs a dose of the devil to enhance his prospects. Those who know Mr. Mailer's life story might think of Fanny Mailer, the maternal sentinel who presided over her son's rise to fame. Needless to say, Mr. Mailer is not equating his experience with Hitler's, but he seems to be pursuing a parallel. Remember that Mr. Mailer is also the author of "Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man" (1995), another work that attempts to fathom the origins of the artist's power. Indeed, Mr. Mailer is fond of analogizing: "Put an artist on an artist," he asserts by way of justifying his unique take on Marilyn Monroe, whom he portrayed as consumed with Napoleonic ambition in "Marilyn" (1973). To explain Mr. Mailer's choice of Hitler, the best source is Mr. Mailer's confession in "Advertisements for Myself" (1959): "The sour truth is that I am imprisoned with a perception which will settle for nothing less than making a revolution in the consciousness of our time." That kind of megalomania belies the ambition required to undertake "The Castle in the Forest."

Norman Mailer's great contribution to American literature is his effort to encompass large subjects. His aspirations are so high that he is bound to fail by any conventional standards. As soon as the SS man explains he is a devil on assignment from the E. O., my interest in his story slackened. Making Hitler a product of evil, rather than an originator of same, is troubling — because it denies the force of evil any human agency.

Much of the novel is third-person narration recast in the voice of the devil. Mr. Mailer has often found speaking in the third person inauthentic because he could never accept the authority of an omniscient narrator. In "The Castle in the Forest," the author has neatly solved the problem by making the narrator's voice supernatural.

The biographer in me, though, rejects the devil and wants to know more about the devil's beard, the SS man. What happens among the congregation of the devils (it has to be kept vague, lest trade secrets become known) did not interest me — I felt I was due back on planet Earth. I responded with a virtual shrug, for example, to the secret that devils call angels "the cudgels."

And yet the richly imagined terrestrial details — the depiction of Adolf's father, Alois, for example — marvelously re-create the Hapsburg world. The sex scenes involving Alois have the ribald verve that is vintage Mailer — and more humor than you would expect in the novelist's evocation of the petty despotisms of domestic life.

Enjoy this novel for its deep learning and its well-wrought characters, if not for its factitious ontology. ( )
3 vote carl.rollyson | Sep 23, 2012 |
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Valentina Colodrolle, Alejandro Colodrolle
Antonia Colodrolle, Isabella Moschenille, Christina
Marie Nastasille, Callan M. Mailerille, Theodore M. Mailerille
Natasha Lancasterille, Mattie James Mailerille, Cyrus Force
Mailerille, ja veljentyttäreni tyttärelle Eden River Alsonille
sekä kummilapsilleni Dominigne Malaquaisille,
Kittredge Fisherille, Clay Fisherille,
Sebastian Rosthalille ja Julian Rosthalille.
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