By Jeff Labrecque
March 04, 2009 at 05:00 AM EST

The Kindly Ones

B-
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Jonathan Littell’s novel The Kindly Ones is a hugely polarizing best-seller ?in France, where, like ?The Da Vinci Code, it has ?inspired books of its own. The grim World War II plot concerns Maximilien Aue, an ?impassive Nazi carrying out the Final Solution. Littell maneuvers his character Zelig-like past a rogues’ gallery of Nazis, culminating in a trip to Hitler’s bunker. It’s like Dante’s Inferno written by Reich historian William Shirer. Aue warns ?that the slippery slope to genocide is greased by ”calm, collected” ordinary people, but when he’s not insisting ”I am just like you,” he’s lusting after his twin sister, fantasizing about matricide, or performing perverse sexual acts. Such graphic depravity lets us all off the hook. B?

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