Book 997 Jonathan Littell – The Kindly Ones

This book will be published in March. All I can say is, Watch this space.

1st October 2009

I have spent the month of September tackling this weighty tome and unfortunately I dont have many nice things to say about it. In fact i’ll cut straight to the chase and admit that this book is an unholy mess. Here’s why.

As such it’s not the plot which made me want to chuck this book out of the window, It’s well researched, it’s potentially interesting and it’s main protagonist Maximillian Aue is a character that will be remembered in contemporary literature. In a nutshell The Kindly Ones is about a Nazi SS high rank official, who both a homosexual and in love with his twin sister.  Aue is in all the right moments of the second world war – Poland 1941 , Stalingrad, and the dissolution of the concentration camps. As I said earlier it’s meticulously researched and it shows that there was a lot of work involved. There is a ton of detail, and that’s not bad at all. Although Aue is not a realistic character Littell creates a very memorable recreation of  Germany, Poland, Russia and Hungary during World War II (at least as I;ve read about it in history books) It’s also worth nothing that the whole novel is based on various greek tragedies and Littel also brings this comparison/ homage out nicely.

What makes this book a torturous read is the AWFUL translation. It is as if the person involved just translated the book sentence by sentence instead of seeing the paragraphs as whole. So there’s a slew of disjointed sentences, non flowing prose and in many cases some passages don’t make sense. The Kindly Ones was written originally in French. To date i have never ever read a badly translated French novel. I’ve always thought the beauty and simplicity of the language fares well in English. Obviously i’ve been proved wrong.

Disappointed? I’m absolutely gutted that this potentially great novel turned out to be sludge due to a half-assed translation!