Saturday, January 3, 2009

Dr. Aue is not my friend

but he is one of the most fascinating characters I have ever encountered. When Jonathan Littell published his "Les Bienveillantes/The Kindly Ones" in 2006, the book became a literary sensation, promptly awarded the Goncourt prize. The novel follows the raise of Dr. Max Aue to a respected SS-officer, travelling with him through the Ukrainian marshes, actively participating in the early steps of the infamous Endlösung, reaching the Caucasus where involved in the "scientific" dispute whether the Bergjuden are indeed Jews or "just" Persians and where, because of his homosexuality, became an enemy of a local SS-leading officer and was sent to Stalingrad as a punishment. There, for the first time, witnessing the fall and deterioration of the Nazi dreams, being wounded and sent back to Berlin, where he meets Albert Speer and starts to be involved in his plan of running the concentration camps "more economically". For that, he visits Auschwitz, the underground Dora factory and other camps, he is in Budapest where the monstrous 1944 transports just started and finally, he spends the last weeks of the WWII in Berlin. What is the most striking about this book is that Max Aue is an educated man, very passionate about books, art and music, and yet, we follow him through these horrors of the XX. century as those were just reasons for a slight nausea that accompanies him through the novel, which is an over 900-pages thick trip to the darkest times of the mankind. For this strange contrast between this almost adorable, young, hansome and intelligent man and his indifferent actions, some reviews even accused Littell of writting a pornography of violence. I wish I were more familiar with the structure of the classic Greek tragedies, because the last two (almost cryptic) chapters were difficult for me to understand and I feel I will have to go back soon to re-read them.

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