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Extended Audio Sample The Kindly Ones: A Novel Audiobook, 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: March 2009 ISBN: 9780061890925
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“Simply astounding. . . . The Kindly Ones is unmistakably the work of a profoundly gifted writer.” — Time

A literary prize-winner that has been an explosive bestseller all over the world, Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones has been called “a brilliant Holocaust novel… a world-class masterpiece of astonishing brutality, originality, and force,” and “relentlessly fascinating, ambitious beyond scope,” by Michael Korda (Ike, With Wings Like Eagles). Destined to join the pantheon of classic epics of war such as Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, The Kindly Ones offers a profound and gripping experience of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust.

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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.”

    Time

  • “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 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 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 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 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? "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bjørn André Haugland | 1/19/2014

    " Long, rambling and obscene, although not in a especially clever way. Not without its merits, but not worth it. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Christroybels | 12/20/2013

    " I was expecting great things from this book. I took it on holiday with me where I was sure I could immerse myself in it. I got through half and then resorted to reading trashy magazines as I couldn't read it and enjoy my holiday at the same time.I'm hoping to give it another go but it was very bleak and gory and descriptive of mass murder that I felt a bit nauseated. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tyler Smith | 12/12/2013

    " So f'ing daring I couldn't believe it. This is a powerful, gut-wrenching book. Alas, one star off because it is too long. One can only take Nazis with paralyzing diarrhea for so long. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Deborah Lazaroff | 11/15/2013

    " One of the best books of the decade--I read it in the English translation, which is quite good (I compared a few seqences with the French version a friend had read) ramblng, yes, but also startling, riveting and very powerful. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Diarmid | 11/15/2013

    " Extremely long book about an SS officer during WWII. Claims to be 'the new War and Peace' on the cover, but its a bit overblown and turgid in places. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Harriett | 9/17/2013

    " Perverse fetishism disguised as historical fiction. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Di Massey | 7/1/2012

    " That was the most disturbing book I have ever read! I put it down five or six times, thinking I could not read anymore, but was compelled each time to pick it back up and push through. Not sure I should have.... I do have a new perspective of humanity, though sad to say, it is NOT a good one. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bjørn André | 5/10/2011

    " Long, rambling and obscene, although not in a especially clever way. Not without its merits, but not worth it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jelle | 4/5/2011

    " One of the best books i've ever read!!! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Denise | 4/2/2011

    " difficult to read, very much focused on historic facts. but still good writing and an intriguing story... in a horrific, pitiless and disturbing way "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jf | 3/9/2011

    " Bien monté, VO en français, mène à d'importantes réflexions sur le crime. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie | 2/21/2011

    " I have never read a book that left me feeling more conflicted. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sylvia | 1/27/2011

    " voornamelijk heeeeel erg lang en saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaai "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy | 1/20/2011

    " Very disturbing. The main character was a Nazi soldier and was a bit messed up even before he went through all he did. I did learn some things I didn't know. This was a CD I listened to and it was 30 CD's long!! "

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About the Author
Author Jonathan Littell

Jonathan Littell was born in New York to American parents, and grew up in the United States and France. He lives in Barcelona, Spain.

About the Narrator

Grover Gardner (a.k.a. Tom Parker) is an award-winning narrator with over eight hundred titles to his credit. Named one of the “Best Voices of the Century” and a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine, he has won three prestigious Audie Awards, was chosen Narrator of the Year for 2005 by Publishers Weekly, and has earned more than thirty Earphones Awards.