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Extended Audio Sample The Kindly Ones: A Novel, by Jonathan Littell Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.00078771169752 out of 53.00078771169752 out of 53.00078771169752 out of 53.00078771169752 out of 53.00078771169752 out of 5 3.00 (2,539 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jonathan Littell Narrator: Grover Gardner Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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“Oh my human brothers, let me tell you how it happened.” So begins the chilling fictional memoir of Dr. Maximilien Aue, a former Nazi officer who has reinvented himself, many years after the war, as a middle-class family man and factory owner in 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 in disturbingly precise detail the horrors of the Second World War and the Nazi genocide of the Jews. During the period from June 1941 through April 1945, Max is posted to Poland, Ukraine, and the Caucasus; he is present at the Battle of Stalingrad and at Auschwitz; and he 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, Göring, Speer, Heyrich, Höss, and Hitler himself.

A supreme historical epic and a haunting work of fiction, Jonathan Littell’s masterpiece is intense, hallucinatory, and utterly original. Published to impressive critical acclaim in France in 2006, it went on to win the Prix Goncourt, that country’s most prestigious literary award, and sparked a broad range of responses and questions from readers: How does fiction deal with the nature of human evil? How should a novel encompass the Holocaust? At what point do history and fiction come together and where do they separate?

A provocative and controversial work of literature, The Kindly Ones is a morally challenging read; it holds up a mirror to humanity—and the reader cannot look away.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The force and clarity with which Littell renders the physical realities of war and mass murder are simply astounding...The Kindly Ones is unmistakably the work of a profoundly gifted writer.”


  • “The singular achievement of Littel’s novel is the way in which he brings us uncomfortably close to the thinking of people whose careers took them from police work to euthanasia, and worse...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 line between ‘them’ and ‘us’...meticulous...weav[es] together the dreadful and the mundane in an unsettlingly persuasive way.”

    New York Review of Books

  • “A great work of literary fiction, to which readers and scholars will turn for decades to come.”

    Times (London)

  • “A near-masterpiece of historical fiction...Almost against our will, Aue insinuates himself as an engaging narrator. Even more impressive is the novel’s total immersion in the historical period. The narrator feels like a primary historical source, an unrepentant eyewitness...Littell brings to life the vicious bureaucratic forces that aided and abetted the past century’s greatest mass murder. In doing so, he gives voices to the devil of our own past.”

    Associated Press

  • “An extraordinarily powerful novel…Above all, it is a sophisticated exploration of issues of morality, evil, and luck… The novel as a whole brilliantly shows how ‘ordinary men’ become killers.”

    Observer (London)

  • “The novel is diabolically clever. It is also impressive, not merely as an act of impersonation but perhaps above all for the fiendish intelligence 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.”

    Spectator (London)

  • “Unquestionably brilliant...Littell is a gifted writer and what he achieves…is unparalleled…The novel [is] scrupulous in its period details and…generous in its scope.”  

    The Nation

  • “A world-class masterpiece of astonishing brutality, originality, and force.”

    Daily Beast

  • “In the person of Dr. Max Aue, Littell has created a compelling witness to the extraordinary events that punctuated the Third Reich...Littell has assiduously researched the large events he depicts; however, it is his own creative imagination that gives substance to the narrator’s broodings on his involvement in horrific deeds. As these dark meditations probe episodes of nightmarish cruelty and tangled sexuality, they reveal much about how ordinary human weakness creates openings for diabolic evil. A nuanced translation preserves the vertiginous power that made the French original a much-acclaimed prizewinner in Europe.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “An alternately fascinating and impressively researched novel...Its feverish voice is weirdly mesmerizing, the scope awesome.” 

    Newark Star Ledger

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Winner of the 2006 Prix Goncourt
  • Selected for the March 2009 Indie Next List
  • A 2009 Time Magazine Top 10 Book for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Brett | 2/11/2014

    " Hmmm. I'm really not sure what to say about this book. And frankly I hope I don't ever have to ride an elevator alone with the author. Tedious, pedantic, mired in excessive detail, etc. etc. this book is really hard labor. That combined with the endless compound nouns of the German language and endless layers of Nazi bureaucracy with kill the casual reader. Fortunately, or unfortunately perhaps I had a decent background in both Deutsch und Der Nazis so I kept pushing on thorough. The protagonist? - was one sick hombre no doubt, his psycho-sexual issues with his sister and it's manifestation of some imagined lifelong fidelity with her - allowing himself the loophole of gay sex - his sociopathic ability to kill pretty much anyone depending on his immediate needs... well...All that aside though, buried somewhere in the nearly thousand pages is a couple of very important things that are put forth - things near and dear to me - that being the misguided vilification of the German people. The historical perspective that all Germans of this era were maniacal foaming anti-Semitic Jew haters with a pathological desire to rid the world of the scourge. In fact most - even in the SS were not like that and were merely career business people tasked with a job. It was a horrible job granted, but the worker of the time wasn't really in a position to argue with the boss - lest he end up part of the work. Littell points out that even within the SS, there were the everyday go-to-work types and the maniacs, the maniacs being well known amongst the other officers. Littell doesn't apologize for the Nazis or try to make them these likable guys - he just points out that the everyday guy of the Third Reich wasn't this genocidal race purification psychos, but rather working stiffs in the system building careers in the fields available to them. Only someone who is Jewish (Littell in this case) could have said this stuff and not been slaughtered publicly. It kind of reminds me a little of W.G. Sebalds "On the natural history of destruction." but from a different perspective. Littell's knowledge of history - not just Nazi history - and several other disciplines such as linguistics...are unbelievable. But to cut this review short...this book is not easy to read, is incredibly long, incredibly detailed, has very few paragraph breaks, confusing dialog, and on and on. It says on the cover it was a "New York Times Controversial Best-seller" I find that very hard to believe. I can't imagine this book got any word-of-mouth referrals outside of a certain arcane group of individuals. I for one am glad it's over and have no explanation for why I finished it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Sylvia dreuning | 2/6/2014

    " voornamelijk heeeeel erg lang en saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaai "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Dhana | 2/3/2014

    " What turns an ordinary man into a mass murderer ? This is a difficult book to read, in terms of its subject.....written as a novel but with complete historical detail & from the protagonist viewpoint. Completely harrowing, but I stayed up all night reading it...... "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Paula Hebert | 1/20/2014

    " I read a lot of comments about this book, and most were either loved it, or hated it. so I decided to find out for myself. and I hated it. I read the first 100 pages, plodding along, hearing this pompous ass go on forever about everything. plus he seems to have a fixation on nazi army titles;i.e. uberfuhrermeister etc. you know how the germans like to take six or seven words and smash the all together to make one giant word? well this book is busting with them. after the first 100, I peeked through the book, hoping the writing and story would improve, but it never did. This book is not worth the paper it 's printed on. why does every book from europe seem to get good press? "

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About the Author
Author Jonathan Littell

Jonathan Littell was born in New York of American parents and grew up in the United States and in France. He attended the Lycée Français in New York as well as Yale University. He now lives in Barcelona.