The Kindly Ones (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones is a colossal novel in the form of a fictional memoir. The narrator and protagonist is Dr. Maximilien von Aue, a former officer in the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the secret service of the Schutzstaffel (SS), the elite Nazi military organization that operated within and alongside the German army during World War II. Now an elderly lace merchant living under an assumed name in the north of France, Max is married, has twin children, and is bored with his life. His attempt to tell “how it happened” mainly covers the period from June, 1941, the beginning of the German invasion of Soviet Russia, to April, 1945, when Russian troops conquered Berlin. There are also frequent flashbacks to Max’s childhood and student days, usually triggered by some stressful event during his involvement in the extermination of Jews and other minorities in the conquered territories.
The external structure of the novel parallels that of a baroque orchestral suite; the individual chapters bear the names of the dance movements of such a suite, and the action described in each chapter reflects the mood and tempo of each musical subdivision. Thus, the first chapter is called “Toccata,” referring to a virtuoso piece to highlight the technical mastery of the performer. Toccatas were used as introductions or overtures to suites and fugues in the contrapuntal works of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Jean-Philippe...
(The entire section is 1817 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Booklist 105, no. 11 (February 1, 2009): 25.
Commentary 127, no. 5 (May, 2009): 78-81.
Kirkus Reviews 77, no. 1 (January 1, 2009): 8.
Library Journal 134, no. 2 (February 1, 2009): 66.
London Review of Books 31, no. 8 (April 30, 2009): 11-13.
The New Republic 240, no. 5 (April 1, 2009): 38-43.
New Statesman 138, no. 4940 (March 16, 2009): 55-56.
The New York Review of Books 56, no. 5 (March 26, 2009): 18-21.
The New York Times, February 24, 2009, p.C1.
The New York Times Book Review, March 8, 2009, p.10.
The New Yorker 85, no. 6 (March 23, 2009): 75.
Publishers Weekly 255, no. 49 (December 8, 2008): 42-43.
Publishers Weekly 256, no. 48 (November 30, 2009): 41.
The Times Literary Supplement, March 6, 2009, p. 21.
World Literature Today 77, no. 1 (April-June, 2003): 77-78.
(The entire section is 83 words.)