Troutbirder

Troutbirder
To Go To Troutbirders Nature Blog (click on above picture)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Kindly Ones

I took a group of high school students to Germany. We went to Dachau outside of Munich. I had explained carefully what happened here. Still, as we approached the bus parking lot, the area around it was neatly mowed and had a park-like appearance. Across the street was a McDonalds. Incongrous to say the least....

On the way to Williamsburg, I pressed my companions for a stop in Washington, to see the new Holocaust museum. We were given an identity tag to wear of an actual victim. As we entered the elevator it had the appearance of a railroad boxcar. We spent hours looking at photgraphs and artifacts like thousands of shoes of children murdered by the Nazi killing machine. When we left I had the worst migraine of my life.

Each generation needs to learn of this human atrocity and never forget it. I have read many books on this subject in that spirit. With that in mind, I obtained and read The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell. Nearly a thousand pages long, it has been falsely compared to Tolstoys War and Peace. Awarded the top prize for literature in France, I had hoped that it would measure up to that standard. It didn't.



I must say that I did intend to write a real review of this book. The fact is, I am unable to articulate all the reasons I found it to be the worst book I ever read. Opinion among the experts is somewhat divided about it. Mine is not. If you want to learn about the historical unfolding of the German invasion of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and its consequences, there are hundreds of books that do a better job. Hannah Arendt, watching Adoph Eichmann at his trial, explained the psychology of the bureaucrats who managed the murder operation. She coined the phrase,
the "banality of evil." My phrase to characterize this awful book would be "historical pornography." I will let it rest there.

16 comments:

Rae said...

I will pass on reading this book per your advice.

I am sickened by thoughts of the atrocities that occurred during the holocaust; such much suffering and death all because of intolerance. I would have a migraine too, if I visited the museum.

And I am saddened by the fact that my own grandchildren are not being taught about it in school. How are they suppose to learn how to prevent such tragedies if they are not taught this in history class?

I will take it upon myself to make sure they know, but I know many children have parents/grandparents who will never bother. Are we doomed to repeat history? I certainly hope not.

Veronica Wald said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cedar ... said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sarah Laurence said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anvilcloud said...

I forget that each generation must be reminded but that it will soon be seen as ancient as the dark ages.

Out on the prairie said...

I hate to sit a book down if it isn't ringing bells for me.I usually try to finish. I have been to Auschwitz in 2003. It leaves a better understanding i felt.A neighbor when I was a kid had escaped from being placed there and held back a lot of stories.

Arkansas Patti said...

I agree we need to know about those horrors so we never repeat. I have read several books that dealt with the subject properly. You have convinced me not to tackle this one. Thank you.

Sue said...

I have "The Holocaust Chronicles" and every time I TRY to read it, I get caught up in the images of the horrors of that time in history and am unable to continue. It is an EXCELLENT book, filled with timelines, narratives, and photographs.

Red said...

Sometimes we have to read a very poorly written book. I just finished a book and asked myself , "Why did I ever read this book?"

Carla from The River said...

Thank you for the warning!

Valerie said...

I won't read the book since it would arouse too many memories. I remember during that terrible war my parents made me cover my eyes at the cinema when the newsreel showed the atrocities. Those memories are still very real. Yes, I think younger generations should know what went on but I fear it wouldn't have the same impact.

NCmountainwoman said...

I have read plenty about the Holocaust and I'm not inclined to read more. Your review of this book convinces me not to read this one for sure.

Lin said...

Thanks for the review. I'm glad to hear of a bad book so I don't a) purchase it and b) find out for myself. Thanks for sparing me!

Bubba Muntzer said...

Great review Sr T. A very creative approach, setting it up that way. And a reference to Hannah Arendt no less! You made my Sunday.

Some people worry that current events here and across Europe are a warning that we never learned anything from the Holocaust. But we keep our fingers fixed permanently in the pointing position while holocausts take place all around us, if holocaust means a lot of people died owing to a set of human and social characteristics that we can't or refuse to acknowledge.

One good thing is that compassionate individuals are still drawn to the teaching profession and what they pass on to their students is diffused among us causing us to question, seek, and once in awhile push back. Did you ever notice that the misspelled protest signs that get posted on the internet aren't the ones that were made by people seeking social justice, because the ones seeking social justice were the ones paying attention in class.

troutbirder said...

I did notice. And thanks Bubba for reminding me....:) My favorite one was a recent one demanding Texas leave the Union. Misspelled or not it is one I sometimes have an irritable urge to favor...

Linda said...

I had a chance to visit the Holocaust Museum but turned it down. I don't know if I could deal with it! We did go to a museum in Berlin that dealt with it a little but not in a way that made it feel close to you.

I remember reading the novel Exodus. That was decades ago and I still wince when I remember the story.