The Kindly Ones
Prompted by the extremely polarised reception it has received, and having been curious about the novel since it was first published in France (I mentioned it briefly here and here), I have started reading The Kindly Ones. I've also been following some of the critical reception. Now, I am not even a tenth of the way through, so am far from having a verdict—though I did find the Dostoyevskian opening section impressive. Until then, allow me to note the ineptness with which the novel has been reviewed in the New York Times, underscoring the uselessness of newspaper reviewers in the face of intellectually ambitious work. Compare the simplistic, posturing reviews of Michiko Kakutani and David Gates with Daniel Mendelsohn's penetrating review just published in The New York Review of Books. On the possible theoretical rationale for the psychological perversity of the narrator Mendelsohn provides the most helpful reading I have seen. In contrast Kakutani offers no comment, while Gates somewhat astonishingly flags his own intellectual laziness by writing:
I suppose we're to connect this compulsion for self-completion with his indifference to the mass murders in which he's complicit.
You suppose? No wonder Littell doesn't bother coming to America.