half genius, half perversion


This book has divided the world. The French love it, and gave it not only the Prix Goncourt but the Académie Française’s Prix de la Littérature as well. The British are split – Antony Beevor loved it, Peter Kemp hated it. The survivor-writer Jorge Semprún admired it; Claude Lanzmann, the maker of Shoah, first hated it, then changed his mind. Most Americans and Canadians loathe it. Why? And who is right and wrong? That should be a naïve question, since wildly differing responses to the same book are perfectly normal. But here there is, I think, a right and a wrong answer, though not simple ones. Those who admire The Kindly Ones are right, but those who loathe it are not completely wrong. It is half a work of genius and half a work of gratuitous perversion.

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