Author(s): Jonathan Littell
This Faustian story with a terrifying twist is the fictional memoir of Dr. Max Aue, a former SS intelligence officer, who has reinvented himself as a family man and owner of a lace factory in post-war France. Max is an intellectual steeped in philosophy, literature, and classical music. He is also a cold-blooded assassin and the consummate bureaucrat, who speaks out now not in self-justification but to set the record straight. He looks back at his life with cool-eyed precision: from a disrupted childhood and a turning point in his student days, to his role as observer and then participant in Nazi atrocities on the Eastern Front, from Poland to the Caucasus; he is present at the siege of Stalingrad, at the death camps, and finally caught up in the rout of the Nazis and the nightmarish fall of Berlin.Although Max is a totally imagined character, his world is peopled by real historical figures such as Eichmann, Himmler, Goring, Speer, Heydrich, Hoss, and Hitler himself. Massive in scope, terrifying in subject matter, and shocking in its protagonist, Littell's masterpiece is intense, hallucinatory, and terrifyingly compelling. Described by Le Figaro as 'a monument of contemporary literature', this transgressive work has been compared to classics of world literature, including War and Peace. A huge novel about the seductive enormity of evil, the ineffable horror of war, man's inhumanity and the malevolence of the Furies, this is a book that every thinking person should read and to which no one can be indifferent.
First published in France 2006; this translation 2009.
Jonathan Littell was born in 1967 in New York of American parents and brought up and educated mainly in France. This novel, originally published in France as Les Bienveillantes, became a bestseller and won the coveted Prix Goncourt and the Academie Francaise's Prix de Litterature. Previously he worked for the humanitarian agency, Action contre la faim, in Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He now lives in Spain.