In the plays, Orestes , who has killed his mother Clytemnestra to avenge his father Agamemnon , was pursued by these female goddesses. In addition, the author studied the literature and film archives of World War II and the post-war trials. Littell said he wanted to focus on the thinking of an executioner and of origins of state murder ,  showing how we can take decisions that lead, or not, to a genocide. He found that the idea of morality in Ancient Greece is more relevant for making judgments about responsibility for the Holocaust than the Judeo-Christian approach, wherein the idea of sin can be blurred by the concepts such as intentional sin, unintentional sin, sinning by thought, or sinning by deed. For the Greeks it was the commission of the act itself upon which one is judged: Oedipus is guilty of patricide , even if he did not know that he was killing his father. Aue begins his narrative as a member of an Einsatzgruppe in , before being sent to the doomed German forces locked in the Battle of Stalingrad , which he survives.
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In the plays, Orestes , who has killed his mother Clytemnestra to avenge his father Agamemnon , was pursued by these female goddesses. In addition, the author studied the literature and film archives of World War II and the post-war trials.
Littell said he wanted to focus on the thinking of an executioner and of origins of state murder ,  showing how we can take decisions that lead, or not, to a genocide. He found that the idea of morality in Ancient Greece is more relevant for making judgments about responsibility for the Holocaust than the Judeo-Christian approach, wherein the idea of sin can be blurred by the concepts such as intentional sin, unintentional sin, sinning by thought, or sinning by deed.
For the Greeks it was the commission of the act itself upon which one is judged: Oedipus is guilty of patricide , even if he did not know that he was killing his father.
Aue begins his narrative as a member of an Einsatzgruppe in , before being sent to the doomed German forces locked in the Battle of Stalingrad , which he survives. After a convalescence period in Berlin, and a visit to occupied France , he is designated for an advisory role for the concentration camps , and visits the extermination camps. By the end of the story, he flees Germany under a false French identity to start a new life in northern France. In the book, Aue accepts responsibility for his actions, but most of the time he feels more like an observer than a direct participant.
The book is divided into seven chapters, each named after a baroque dance , following the sequence of a Bach Suite. The narrative of each chapter is influenced by the rhythm of each dance.
He is the director of a lace factory, has a wife, children, and grandchildren, though he has no real affection for his family and continues his homosexual encounters when he travels on business. He hints of an incestuous love, which we learn later was for his twin sister.
He explains that he has decided to write about his experiences during the war for his own benefit and not as an attempt to justify himself. I tell you I am just like you! He describes in detail the killing of Soviet Jews , Communists , alleged partisans and other victims of the "special operations".
Although he seems to become increasingly indifferent to the atrocities he is witnessing and sometimes taking part in, he begins to experience daily bouts of vomiting and suffers a mental breakdown.
Aue is then charged with the assignment of proving to the Wehrmacht that the Mountain Jews were historically Jewish rather than later converts to Judaism. After he fails in this task, due to political pressure from the beleaguered Army, his disappointed commanding officer arranged that he be transferred to the doomed German forces at Stalingrad in late As with the massacres, he is mostly an observer, the narrator rather than the combatant.
In the midst of the mayhem and starvation, he manages to have a discussion with a captured Soviet political commissar about the similarities between the Nazi and the Bolshevik world views, and once again is able to indicate his intellectual support for Nazi ideas.
Aue gets shot in the head and seriously wounded, but is miraculously evacuated just before the German surrender in February While still on sick leave, he decides to visit his mother and stepfather in Antibes , in Italian-occupied France. Apparently, while he is in a deep sleep, his mother and stepfather are brutally murdered.
Max flees from the house without notifying anybody and returns to Berlin. He struggles to improve the living conditions of those prisoners selected to work in the factories as slave laborers , in order to improve their productivity. Aue meets Nazi bureaucrats organizing the implentation of the Final Solution i.
Aue witnesses the tug-of-war between those who are concerned with war production Albert Speer and those who are doggedly trying to implement the Final Solution. It is during this period that two police detectives from the Kripo , who are investigating the murders of his mother and stepfather, begin to visit him regularly.
Like the Furies , they hound and torment him with their questions, which indicate their suspicions about his role in the crime. There, he engages in a veritable autoerotic orgy particularly fueled by fantasy images of his twin sister. The two police officers follow his trail to the house, but he manages to hide from them.
However, Aue soon finds himself trapped when the Red Army rapidly invades and occupies Pomerania. When he is transported to his execution, the car is hit by an artillery shell, enabling him to escape. Aue flees through the Berlin U-Bahn subway tunnels, where he encounters his police pursuers again.
Though their case has been repeatedly thrown out of court, the two detectives, unwilling to accept defeat, decided to track Aue down and execute him extrajudicially. Barely escaping when the Soviets storm the tunnels and kill one of the policemen, Aue wanders aimlessly in the ruined streets of war-torn Berlin before deciding to make a break for it.
Making his way through the wasteland of the destroyed Berlin Zoo , he is yet again faced by the surviving policeman. Thomas shows up to kill the policeman, only to himself be killed by Aue, who steals from him the papers and uniform of a French STO conscripted worker.
In the last paragraph of the novel, the narrator, after he ruthlessly killed his friend and protector, suddenly finds himself "alone with time and sadness": "The Kindly Ones were on to me. His mother was French from Alsace , while his father, who left his mother and disappeared from their life in , was German.
He speaks many languages fluently — German, French, Ancient Greek and Latin — and holds a doctorate in law. Despite his French heritage and upbringing, he is, like his father, an ardent German nationalist. Even after the war, he is unrepentant of the crimes he committed in the name of National Socialism , "believing that it was my duty and that it had to be done, disagreeable or unpleasant as it may have been. Refusing to truly love any woman other than Una, he becomes a homosexual but continues to fantasize about having sex with Una.
She lived with her husband on his estate in Pomerania , but apparently moved to Switzerland with him towards the end of the war. Despite essentially agreeing with their nationalist and antisemitic ideology, he distances himself from the Nazis.
Max does not accept that his father is dead and never forgives his mother for remarrying. Aristide is reminiscent in French of Atrides,  the name given to the descendants of Atreus , among whom figure Agamemnon, Orestes and Electra. The twins, Tristan and Orlando — Mysterious twin children who live with the Moreaus, but are most likely the offspring of the incestuous relationship between Aue and his sister.
The epic poem Orlando Furioso is marked by the themes of love and madness, while the legend of Tristan and Iseult tells the story of an impossible love, two themes that can be found in The Kindly Ones. When Max becomes seriously ill, she voluntarily comes to his apartment and nurses him back to health.
While she is attracted to him, as he initially expresses interest in her, due to his feelings for his sister, as well as his homosexual tendencies, he coldly turns her down and away.
She does not appear again in the novel. In the Greek mythology , Helen marries Menelaus , brother of Agamemnon. Mandelbrod — The mysterious Dr. At the end of the book he is seen packing his bags to join the enemy, offering his services to the Soviet Union.
They question and pursue Aue throughout the war, as if he were a prime murder suspect, despite the cases being repeatedly thrown out. They play the role of the Erinyes in the novel. Aue meets him in Ukraine during the German offensive against the Soviet Union. They both take part in battle of Stalingrad and successfully escape before the German surrender.
They reunite in Berlin, with Hohenegg revealing to Max how he saved his life by convincing doctors at Stalingrad to operate on him and transport him back to Germany, rather than leaving him for dead. He is depicted at different points in the book. Voss — A lieutenant sent in to the Eastern Front where he befriends Aue by the Abwehr and actually a university investigator and specialist in Indo-Germanic , Indo-Iranian and Caucasian languages.
Historical characters[ edit ] Littell also includes many historical figures that Max encounters throughout the novel.
Amongst them are:.
Although his grandparents were Jews who emigrated from Russia to the United States at the end of the 19th century, Littell does not define himself as a Jew "at all," and is quoted as saying, "for me Judaism is more [of] a historical background. Burroughs , who left a lasting impression on him. During that time, he also worked as a consultant for humanitarian organizations. He began research for the book in and started the first draft eighteen months later, after he had read around two hundred books about the Third Reich and the Eastern Front ,  as well as visiting Germany, East Europe and Caucasus. Littell claims that he undertook the creation of his main character, Aue, by imagining what he himself would have done had he been born in pre-war Germany and had become a National Socialist. Many scenes in the novel take place in the Paris Catacombs ; he also includes an unusual appendix in this novel which lists all the music and songs he listened to while composing.
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