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The Naked and the Dead (1948)

by Norman Mailer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,621392,566 (3.92)103
Hailed as one of the finest novels to come out of the World War II, "The Naked and the Dead" received unprecedented critical acclaim upon its 1948 publication and has since become part of the American canon. Written in gritty, journalistic detail, the story follows an Army platoon stationed on the Japanese-held island of Anopopei.… (more)

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English (38)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
War is hell. ( )
  ZanaDont | Nov 5, 2020 |
The Naked and the Dead is considered a classic novel of WWII. One of its strengths is that it presents the war at several different levels: an Army general in command of a Pacific island invasion, a HQ officer, an experienced sergeant leading a platoon and the soldiers who are the implements of everyone else, some who aspire to become a noncom, while others aspire to nothing more than survival. At each of these levels, the novel is very introspective, exploring different individuals’ motivations, emotions and fears, to the extent that conversations often describe not only what is said, but what is thought and specifically not said. This internal world of the characters is as important in the novel as external events.

The events of the novel follow the invasion by the Americans of a Pacific island during WWII and focuses on the experiences of a Recon and Intelligence platoon. The novel provides unique insight into the strange combination of boredom, common physical labor, extreme physical exertion, extensive physical discomforts and ailments and periods of incredible fear that in combination make up military life, especially at the level of the regular Army soldier. It also explores the methods by which the Officers maintain control over the soldiers, how the separation between the Officers and the soldiers is created.

With all of its strengths, my first reaction to the novel was that the characters are simple caricatures that feel both bland and unlike real people. I moved past this first impression to a degree as you explore the inner lives of the various characters, but I never felt I got away completely away from this generic categorization that was insulting to race, religion, country of origin and individuality. The ugly opinion of women presented consistently throughout the novel by almost all of the male characters was quite difficult to swallow. There were characters with whom I could certainly empathize but none that I really liked or respected. The novel is effective at giving us war in all of its horror, but we also get man with all of his weaknesses and insecurities. The outcome of the campaign, both for the Army and the Recon platoon is effective at driving home the cross-purposes of individual career motivations and the objectives of the military while emphasizing the insignificance of the individual. ( )
  afkendrick | Oct 25, 2020 |
This was one of those “great books” that I found a bit empty.

Whatever was happening at the time to make this “the” war novel has long since passed. ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
I don't know. I always heard that this was the best war novel ever written, and while it's certainly not the worst, I'm really not impressed and feel that are quite a few more that are simply better (Cornelius Ryan comes to mind, among others). So while I'm not saying Don't bother, if you're into this genre, sure, do it, but don't buy into the hype that this is the best because it absolutely is not. Cautiously recommended. ( )
  scottcholstad | Jan 20, 2020 |
It seemed to him now that he was very near a fundamental understanding of himself, and he felt a sense of mystery and discovery as if he had found unseen gulfs and bridges in all the familiar drab terrain of his life. “You know,” he said, “life is funny.”

I often loved this account of anxiety and failure, though I remain certain that Mailer robbed Hemingway -- particularly -- For Whom The Bell Tolls. The jungle affords reflection on sexual incongruity and soured ambition. The Japanese don't appear for most of the book, obviously absorbed in their own angst and ennui. ( )
1 vote jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
My first reaction to The Naked and the Dead was: it’s a fake. A clever, talented, admirably executed fake. I have not changed my opinion of the book since, though I have considerably changed my opinion of Mailer, as he himself has changed. Now I confess I have never read all of The Naked and the Dead. I do recall a fine description of soldiers carrying a dying man down a mountain (done almost as well as the same scene in Malraux’s earlier work). Yet every time I got going in the narrative I would find myself stopped cold by a set of made-up, predictable characters taken not from life, but from the same novels all of us had read, and informed by a naïveté which was at its worst when Mailer went into his Time-Machine and wrote those passages which resemble nothing so much as smudged carbons of a Dos Passos work.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Nation, Gore Vidal
Los desnudos y los muertos" apareció en los Estados Unidos en mayo de 1948, exactamente tres años después del día de la victoria de los aliados en la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Norman Mailer tenía entonces veintiséis años, y tras graduarse en Harvard y alistarse en el ejército había estado entre las tropas que ocuparon Japón después de la derrota. La crítica calificó su obra como «la más grande novela de guerra escrita en este siglo», que con el tiempo se ha convertido en un libro mítico. Mailer fue comparado con Hemingway y Tolstói y se situó de inmediato entre los grandes de la literatura americana. En Anopopei, un pequeño islote del Pacífico en forma de ocarina, un universo cerrado donde rigen leyes y sentimientos muy diferentes de los de la vida de los civiles, una patrulla de jóvenes soldados, microcosmos de la sociedad americana están Hearn, un joven intelectual que lee a Rilke; el realista e implacable sargento Croft; Ridges, un campesino sureño; Red Valsen, minero de Montana y anarcosindicalista; Gallagher, un irlandés católico de los barrios bajos de Boston y, planeando sobre todos ellos, la poderosa sombra del general Cummings, nacido en la América más profunda e integrista, secretamente fascinado por el nuevo orden del fascismo..., es enviada en una misión de reconocimiento, una larga marcha por un terreno desconocido y lleno de minas que acabará en una pesadilla de abyección y heroísmo, posiblemente tan gratuita como la guerra misma. Empujados al último límite, permanentemente desnudos ante la muerte, los héroes de Mailer cuestionan las verdades del pasado y la vigencia de los ideales americanos, viven obsesionados por el sexo y padecen y hacen padecer a otros las corrupciones y arbitrariedades del poder.
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia

» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mailer, Normanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kliphuis, J.F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"To my Mother and Bea"
First words
Nobody could sleep. When morning came, assault craft would be lowered and a first wave of troops would ride through the surf and charge ashore on the beach at Anopopei. All over the ship, all through the convoy, there was a knowledge that in a few hours some of them were going to be dead.
Any war that requires the suspension of reason as a necessity for support is a bad war.
There is no greater importance in all the world like knowing you are right and that the wave of the world is wrong, yet the wave crashes upon you.
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The Naked and the Dead has been published also in two parts. Please, don't combine the parts with the whole work.
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Hailed as one of the finest novels to come out of the World War II, "The Naked and the Dead" received unprecedented critical acclaim upon its 1948 publication and has since become part of the American canon. Written in gritty, journalistic detail, the story follows an Army platoon stationed on the Japanese-held island of Anopopei.

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