Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Getting The Kindly Ones very wrong

As I don't have the time, I want to respond very briefly to Michiko Kakutani's review of The Kindly Ones. This is the most inept, ill-perceiving review of the novel I can imagine (though one other runs it close). "Aue is clearly a deranged creature," she writes "and his madness turns his story into a voyeuristic spectacle". Well, that is true only to the extent to which one ignores how Aue's fall between life and death determines the narrative and how we should thereby read it. But, of course, Kakutani speaks from a position of moral and psychological authority. As someone employed by a newspaper that manufactured consent for invasions of sovereign nations with the consequent death of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, she has nothing in common with Max Aue. Clearly.

Even the positive reviews - such as Jason Burke's - miss the point, particularly about the translation. It is unfortunate if predictable that literary editors have so far given the book to people who - as foreign correspondents and military historians - have little or no feeling for the literary context in which this book operates and from which it demands to be read. Soon I hope to post my own review. However, if I don't, keep this in mind, particularly if you've been influenced by The Literary Saloon's negative cheerleading: The Kindly Ones is one of the most intense reading experiences you will ever have.

UPDATE: my review is now posted.


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