The Kindly Ones is simply “Houellebecq does Nazism” (From Laurent Binet’s HHhH)

A poster on an Internet forum expresses the opinion that Max Aue, Jonathan Littell’s protagonist in The Kindly Ones, “rings true because he is the mirror of his age.” What? No! He rings true (for certain, easily duped readers) because he is the mirror of our age: a postmodern nihilist, essentially. At no moment in the novel is it suggested that this character believes in Nazism. On the contrary, he displays an often critical detachment toward National Socialist doctrine—and in that sense, he can hardly be said to reflect the delirious fanaticism prevalent in his time. On the other hand, this detachment, this blasé attitude toward everything, this permanent malaise, this taste for philosophizing, this unspoken amorality, this morose sadism, and this terrible sexual frustration that constantly twists his guts … but of course! How did I not see it before? Suddenly, everything is clear. The Kindly Ones is simply “Houellebecq does Nazism.”

From Laurent Binet’s novel HHhH; English Translation by Sam Taylor.

Enjoyed the novel tremendously.

I’m not sure if Binet’s remarks (or, Binet’s narrator, who is Binet-performing-author-as-narrator) are exactly a literary dis or not (I’m pretty sure he’s dissing Littell, but unsure how Houellebecq fits in there, or what).

(My thoughts on The Kindly Ones; my thoughts on Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles).


  1. Jenny Ackland · April 13, 2014

    I saw Binet in conversation at the Melb Writers Festival last year and he was quite disparaging about Littell’s book, definitely. I have my notes here if you are interested: I haven’t finished reading HHhH, got sidetracked, but was enjoying it immensely. Must get back to it.


  2. Pingback: Laurent Binet’s HHhH Is a Thrilling Intertextual Adventure Story | Biblioklept

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