Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Castle in the Forest

Title: The Castle in the Forest
Author: Norman Mailer
Abacus, 2007 (2007)

In the poll on the left, 61% of the votes indicate that this genre is interesting and 30% say that it is boring. In the case of this novel the genre's fans will be disappointed. On the other hand, the few worriers who fear the novel might be confusing or potentially dangerous, need not man the barricades in outrage, as this review will calm them.

The idea was interesting: a novel focused on Hitler's childhood during which he is guided by one of the Devil's minions who is also the narrator. It's a pity that the execution of the idea is a meandering, nasty morass. My expectation was that Mailer would make the fictional Hitler come alive, unbound by the restraints of historical fact. The only characters who come close to this are Hitler's parents and older siblings. Hitler the child, is still a hazy figure, fogged in by those close to him.

The only controversy Mailer introduces to Hitler's life is the taint of incest and sexual escapades of various sorts and Hitler himself is actually innocent of these shenanigans. It is his father and older brother who are the actors here. Furthermore, there is no doubt in my mind that these frequently sordid elaborations are figments of Mailer's dirty old mind, and has nothing whatsoever to do with historical fact. As I said, I do not get a clear picture of Hitler, but I do get a very vivid image in my head of Mailer himself, sitting at his desk writing, with a licentious leer on his face as he describes how the 13-year-old Alois Hitler Junior gets a blow-job from a urine-smelling beekeeper. I was impressed by The Naked and the Dead. I am not impressed by The Castle in the Forest.

PS. I have just learnt that The Castle in the Forest has been nominated for Literary Review's award "Worst Sex Scene of the Year". I rest my case.

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