Looking More Kindly on ‘The Kindly Ones’

NYT reviewer Michiko Kakutani may not have the last word on The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell. It’s been a bestseller in Europe, selling over a million copies, and won the two most prestigious French literary awards. but Kakutani isn’t buying it;

The novel’s gushing fans…seem to have mistaken perversity for daring, pretension for ambition, an odious stunt for contrarian cleverness. [It is] Willfully sensationalistic and deliberately repellent…

In the Daily Beast, Michael Korda, who has read the book in both the original French and in the English translation, sounds like he read a different book altogether,

…a dreadful, compelling, brilliantly researched, and imagined masterpiece, a terrifying literary achievement, and perhaps the first work of fiction to come out of the Holocaust that places us in its very heart, and keeps us there.

And says,

I guarantee you, if you read this book to the end, and if you have any kind of taste at all, you won’t be able to put it down for a moment—lay in snacks and drinks!—you will be upset, disturbed, revolted, and deeply challenged.

Introducing an interview with the author in the Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey Trachtenberg reports that both Borders and Barnes & Noble are supporting the book. Independent booksellers are supporting it as well; it’s on the March Indie Next List.

Reviewers in the U.K., where the book has also just been released, are in the Kakutani camp. The Times of London calls it “so bloatedly inept that its reverential reception across the Channel seems barely comprehensible.”

It’s currently at #447 on Amazon sales rankings and library reserves are growing.

The Kindly Ones
Littell, Jonathan
Price: $29.99
Hardcover: 992 pages
Publisher: Harper – (2009-03-01)
ISBN-10: 0061353450
ISBN-13: 9780061353451

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