Parution – “Writing the Holocaust Today. Critical Perspectives on Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones”

Writing the Holocaust Today

Critical Perspectives on Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones

Aurélie Barjonet & Liran Razinsky

Rodopi, 2012

262 p.
ISBN : 978-9042035867. Prix : 55,00 €

Originally written in French, The Kindly Ones (2006) is the first major work of the Jewish-American author Jonathan Littell. Its extraordinary critical and commercial success, spawning a series of heated debates, has made this publication one of the most significant literary phenomena of recent years.
Taking the Holocaust as its central topic, The Kindly Ones is a disturbing novel: disturbing in its use of explicit sexual descriptions, in its construction of a perverted psychic world, in its combination of accurate historical descriptions and myths, and in its repeated suggestion that Nazism does not, in fact, lie outside the spectrum of humanness. Due to its striking monumental proportions and the author’s provocative choice to recount historical events from the perpetrator’s perspective, this opus marks a significant shift within Holocaust literature.
In this volume, fourteen leading literary scholars and historians from eight different countries closely study this unsettling work. They examine the disconcerting aspects of the novel including the use of the Nazi viewpoint, analyze the aesthetics of the novel and its contradictions, and explore its relations with several literary traditions. They outline Littell’s use of historical details and materials and study the novel’s reception. This compilation of essays is essential to anyone intrigued by The Kindly Ones or by the Holocaust and who wishes to gain a better understanding of them.



The Book’s Provocation

  • Georges Nivat: Adelphic Incest in Musil, Nabokov, and Littell
  • Peter Kuon: From ‘Kitsch’ to ‘Splatter’: The Aesthetics of Violence in The Kindly Ones
  • Liran Razinsky: The Similarity of Perpetrators
  • Cyril Aslanov: Visibility and Iconicity of the German Language in The Kindly Ones

The Perpetrator’s Point of View

  • Catherine Coquio: ‘Oh my human brothers, let me tell you how it happened.’ (Who is the Perpetrator Talking To?)
  • Luc Rasson: How Nazis Undermine their Own Point of View
  • Aurélie Barjonet: Manufacturing Memories: Textual and Mnemonic Weaving in The Kindly Ones

Memory & Intertexts

  • Martin von Koppenfels: The infamous ‘I’: Notes on Littell and Céline
  • Leona Toker: The Kindly Ones and the ‘Scorched-Earth’ Principle
  • Sandra Janßen: The Perpetrator as a Totalitarian Subject: Allegiance and Guilt in The Kindly Ones

Historical Perspectives

  • Jeremy Popkin: A Historian’s View of The Kindly Ones
  • Hans-Joachim Hahn: ‘Morality’ and ‘Humanness’: Reading Littell with Speer, Fest, Syberberg and Others
  • The Reception of the Novel
  • Wolfgang Asholt: A German Reading of the German Reception of The Kindly Ones
  • Helena Duffy: La bienveillance de la critique polonaise. An Analysis of the Polish Reception of Les Bienveillantes


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