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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,520 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Norman Mailer Narrator: Harris Yulin Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2007 ISBN: 9780743566759
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No career in modern American letters is at once so brilliant, varied, and controversial as that of Norman Mailer. In a span of more than six decades, Mailer has searched into subjects ranging from World War II to Ancient Egypt, from the march on the Pentagon to Marilyn Monroe, from Henry Miller and Muhammad Ali to Jesus Christ. Now, in his first major work of fiction in more than a decade, The Castle in the Forest offers what may be Mailer’s consummate literary endeavor: he has set out to explore the evil of Adolf Hitler.

The narrator, a mysterious SS man in possession of some extraordinary secrets, takes the young Adolf from birth through his adolescence. En route, revealing portraits are offered of Hitler’s father and mother, and his sisters and brothers.

A 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 all of us. At its core is a hypothesis that is employed with stunning originality. Now, on the eve of his eighty-fourth birthday, Norman Mailer may well be saying more than he ever has before.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The novel sometimes feels like a psychoanalytic version of The Screwtape Letters, but Mailer arrives at a somber, compelling portrait of a monstrous soul.” 

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Mailer maintains interest with glorious writing, fastidious detailing and research, and intriguing philosophical underpinnings about the order of Hell, Heaven, and Earth.” 

    Audiofile

  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jennifer | 2/14/2014

    " Gave up on this one half way through....too weird. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kent Newcome | 2/12/2014

    " Started reading this January 4, 2011. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Mara Capio | 2/12/2014

    " This is the first book in a long time that I could not finish. The story sounded interesting, learning about Hitler's childhood. I was listening to the audio version and couldn't get past CD 4 of 15. The story was very slow, talking about who might have been his grandfather and possible incest in his family for the first 3 CDs and he is not even born yet. The narrator is the Devil, who went off on tangents. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jon | 2/9/2014

    " From the moments the devilish narrator introduces himself to the his justification for his writing, Mailer's novel begs us to ask fascinating and impossible questions of the world, about how we interact with and understand it. Mailer's magic is his ability to get us to question character, both those in the book and those in our lives. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matt Sadorf | 2/4/2014

    " I really liked this imagining of what made Hitler, where he came from and why. The only disappointment I had was that Mailer passed away without being able to write the followups to this book that he talked abut. Apparently he wanted to do three volumes total, but alas it was not to be, so I will just have to read his other books and call it good. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 John Deaton | 1/28/2014

    " Before beginning my workday, which is in the afternoon because I sleep late, I find myself preparing for my writing by putting myself into a kind of trance. It helps that the kids are grown, the phone can be turned off, the computer hasn't yet taken over my life, and I can still find a voice. Just now Elvis told me, "I was an oak, now I'm a willow, and I can bend ..." I glanced above the CD player and saw the lyrics to "A Lover's Concerto," by the Toys, consisting of June Montiero, Barbara Parritt, and Barbara Harris, and this song goes way back to a time in Galveston in the Sixties when I began to feel the pull of the world outside of medicine and began to heed that call, a syncopated rhapsody of love. Because it has been true at various times, I have a list beside the lyrics of "A Lover's Concerto," a list of others to whom I owe both a debut and a debt, and they are John Denver, Julie Andrews, Shirley Jones, Whitney Houston, Judy Collins, Anne Murray, Selena, Paul Simon, Celine Deon, Don McLean, Judy Kahn, Vanessa Williams and a few hundred others, unlisted. I soar with the "Colors of the Wind." I have MS and have had it over 30 years and it is manifest as bladder problems and muscular weakness and pain. During the day it is the bladder problems; at night it is the pain. So it is day now and I just made a race to the bathroom: got there in time! My thoughts are about the relative merits of jockey shorts versus boxer shorts. With boxer shorts it is easier to fetch it and that is good. But with the jockey shorts, in case I have an accident, they absorb a lot and usually keep me having to change trousers. Choices, choices! A man, Mr. Hull, came to our Key Club meeting in high school and gave a speech. I decided to remember his theme that day for the rest of my life, and what he said was, "Be courteous to all and intimate to a few." I sure hope Mr. Hull won't turn over in his grave that I have more often been intimate to all and courteous to a few, because I am a writer. I took my MFA from the Mean Fast Abyss, and race from it continuously. So I decided that instead of going to what I am working on now, a story of my decade in medicine so many years ago, that I would review Mailer's book. Elsewhere I've said that I love the man, and I think it is nice that in the "Chicago Manual of Style" it says that you speak of what a writer says in present tense even should h/she have died. Mailer says a lot of things. I met Robert B. Parker and came to love the man. We had a short correspondence before Bob (Joan called him "Ace," but only Joan) became too famous to keep up with his correspondence. Still, I quote a sentence from one of his letters to me: "Writers in general, and Mailer in particular, say a lot of bullshit." Caveat swallowed. But in this book Mailer takes a huge risk in getting inside the head of the boy who became Adolf Hitler. In my novel, "Two Hands Full of Sunshine," I do discuss Hitler, and one of the points I make is that he was not mad. (In the sense of crazy.) To say that Hitler was mad, and I quote from my book, "solves everything without getting at anything." But that he was not mad puts more of a burden on those who try to explain him. Reading Mailer's "The Castle in the Forest: A Novel," one doesn't have to enjoy every scatological reference, and there are many. One instead marvels at his use of the language, at the way the sentences curl and trickle and coax and yelp, all of it just so, like something that was always there and Mailer merely revealed it. Of course I am not through with the book. I'm at the top of page 175. In the back of the book, where I frequently write my own index, I have made these notes: 1) p 74, "The early death of an exceptional child can demoralize a family." 2) p. 93, "DK stands for Dummkoff. E.O. = Evil One. 3) 98, "inter faeces ..." I will add that I do not always need to read an entire book at a time. I love Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," but know that when I return to it I won't read it all. It is sufficient to revel at the style, at his great gifts as a writer demonstrating what is possible, and I go to it the way an amateur sneaks up to look through a knothole at the professionals. And that is true of Mailer in many of his books, including this one, and if it wasn't his last book, it was one of the last, and yet his style is strong and compelling and all of the other things that a writer should try for. In my own case, I'm looking at becoming 71 this summer and when I turned 70 last year, it was as though an internal switch went off in my body, a kind of a final countdown that I am participating in. If my arithmetic is accurate, Mailer was 84 when he published "Castle." I have followed his work for years and years and have never seen him in better form than in this book about Adolf Hitler's youth. One thing I started doing a few years ago because of brain atrophy and the prickles of bad memory was to make word lists. I fold a piece of blank typing paper, cut it in two, do this for a stack of pages at a time, stapel at upper left, and keep these around at the several different places where I live in this house. If I have an idea, ideas being capricious, I jot it down. But the most ardent effort I make is in the evenings, reading, and I select interesting words, steal them, if you will. Some of the words I copied last night nclude "obscene," "stunted" "aroma," "quiescent," "compendious," and "camouflage." And perhaps twenty others. This AM, while Elvis was speaking to me about not having a "Wooden Heart," I copied down "implausible," from the Austin American-Statesman, "painstaking" and "spaghetti" from the Dear Abby column I always read before looking at the TV lineup tonight, and I also see "sot," as in besotted, from Mailer, and I use these word lists rather like an artist holding a palette and selecting colors, and so I am ready for the day to begin. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rick | 1/18/2014

    " I originally scoffed at the premise, but it focuses more on Alois Hitler, Sr. Still, good but not too good. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Ryan | 1/14/2014

    " I gave up after a few chapeters. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Elizabeth | 1/4/2014

    " So I'll give this book two stars because I cared enough to finish it. But, c'mon now, who wants to read a FICTIONAL account of Hitler's childhood in which he wasn't even the main focus of much of the book! I should have just read Mein Kampf... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 marsha | 12/21/2013

    " Didn't like this read at first, but the more I read, the more intrigued I grew. A bit perverse in places but so well written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lindsey | 10/29/2013

    " I enjoyed this book. Interesting take on Hitler as a boy, with a supernatural twist about why he became a monster. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Annie | 10/5/2013

    " Oh crap. I just learned that this is the first book in a trilogy. I did't like it that much, but I might read the next two anyway. They are supposed to come out in 2009 and 2010. Wait. Isn't Norman Mailer dead? Hold please. Yeah. Totally. I guess I'm off the hook! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Travis Dalke | 8/27/2013

    " Very strange yet interesting book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Erin | 6/26/2013

    " I listened to this book...talk about strange and weird. NOT at all what I was expecting, but then again, who expects to read about Hitler's masturbatory style... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John Giroux | 1/31/2012

    " It's unfortunate that Norman Mailer passed away before he could finish what was supposed to be a trilogy. A fictional look into Adolph Hitler's childhood. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 William Kemp | 9/6/2011

    " Dragged a bit, but you can't go wrong with the back story of hitler and his parents narrated by a demon assigned to hitler by the prince of darkness. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anju Rani | 8/28/2011

    " how contrived is this psychosexual analytical approach. So last century. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pete | 7/3/2011

    " Did anybody else read this? It was a bestseller, but I've yet to meet anybody else that has read it. Why didn't Mailer translate to my generation? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ana | 5/17/2011

    " Complicated story, and I wish it would have lasted longer, let's say at least through Hitler's twentysomething years.. It stopped right where his actual life should have started! But it was a very good book, i could not let it out of my hand. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chris | 5/8/2011

    " Forgive me for the following cliche: This was a page-turner. Also forgive me for the fact that this book happened to be about Adolf Hitler. Insightful, hilarious, tongue-biting, and overall genius. I actually punched in late a few times for wont of reading on my lunch break at work. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kmkoppy | 4/21/2011

    " A bazaar book. Not one of Mailer's best! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Laura | 4/7/2011

    " Very interesting, dark book about Hitler as a boy. Disturbing, but fascinating. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Toni | 3/21/2011

    " This is a strange but interesting story of Hitler's childhood and events that lead up to his birth. It is told from the perspective of what one might call a demon -- one assigned to oversee his progress. Very unusual but it was, after all, written by Norman Mailer. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kaworu | 1/22/2011

    " 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. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kent | 1/18/2011

    " Started reading this January 4, 2011. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marc | 12/19/2010

    " Captivating and masterfully written. The one disappointment is that Mailer intended this book, his last before he died, to be the first of a trilogy. In that sense, the ending may seem unsatisfying, but the rest of it is so great that it hardly makes a difference. I loved this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barry | 11/26/2010

    " i really enjoyed this book. Mailer put a face and reason behind the world's most evil man. "

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About the Author
Author Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer (1923–2007) wrote more than thirty books, including The Naked and the Dead; The Armies of the Night, for which he won a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; The Executioner’s Song, for which he won his second Pulitzer Prize; Harlot’s Ghost; Oswald’s Tale; The Gospel According to the Son; and The Castle in the Forest. He was one of the cofounders of The Village Voice.

About the Narrator

Harris Yulin is an Emmy-nominated stage, film, and television actor who is best known for his work in Scarface, Training Day, Rush Hour 2, and his appearances in Frasier, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Law & Order. He has also directed a number of plays, including This Lime Tree Bower, Don Juan in Hell, and Intimacy.