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The Castle in the Forest: A Novel

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The Castle in the Forest: A Novel Cover

ISBN13: 9780812978490
ISBN10: 0812978498
Condition: Standard
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Review-A-Day

"How could a writer as intelligent and original as Norman Mailer have digested this library of books and returned with the superficial, twisted, and finally just plain stupid vision of Hitler in this novel?...After all the decades of inquiry into Hitler by writers and historians and philosophers and psychologists, this is what Mailer has come to propose: the devil made him do it!" Ruth Franklin, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

No career in modern American letters is at once so brilliant, varied, and controversial as that of Norman Mailer. In a span of more than six decades, Mailer has searched into subjects ranging from World War II to Ancient Egypt, from the march on the Pentagon to Marilyn Monroe, from Henry Miller and Mohammad Ali to Jesus Christ. Now, in The Castle in the Forest, his first major work of fiction in more than a decade, Mailer offers what may be his consummate literary endeavor: He has set out to explore the evil of Adolf Hitler.

The narrator, a mysterious SS man who is later revealed to be an exceptional presence, gives us young Adolf from birth, as well as Hitler's father and mother, his sisters and brothers, and the intimate details of his childhood and adolescence.

A tapestry of unforgettable characters, The Castle in the Forest delivers its playful twists and surprises with astonishing insight into the nature of the struggle between good and evil that exists in us all. At its core is a hypothesis that propels this novel and makes it a work of stunning originality. Now, on the eve of his eighty-fourth birthday, Norman Mailer may well be saying more than he ever has before.

Review:

"Mailer did Jesus in The Gospel According to the Son; now he plumbs the psyche of history's most demonic figure in this chilling fictional chronicle of Hitler's boyhood. Mailer tells the story through the eyes of Dieter, a devil tasked by Satan (usually called the Maestro) with fostering Hitler's nascent evil, but in this study of a dysfunctional 19th-century middle-class Austrian household, the real presiding spirit is Freud. Young Adolph (often called Adi) is the offspring of an incestuous marriage between a coarse, domineering civil servant and a lasciviously indulgent mom. The boy duly develops an obsession with feces, a fascination with power, a grandiose self-image and a sexually charged yen for mass slaughter (the sight of gassed or burning beehives thrills him). Dieter frets over Hitler's ego-formation while marveling at the future dictator's burning gaze, his ability to sway weak minds and the instinctive fhrerprinzip that emerges when he plays war with neighborhood boys — talents furthered by Central Europe's ambient romantic nationalism. Mailer's view of evil embraces religions and metaphysics, but it's rooted in the squalid soil of toilet-training travails and perverted sexual urges. The novel sometimes feels like a psychoanalytic version of The Screwtape Letters, but Mailer arrives at a somber, compelling portrait of a monstrous soul." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"In his first novel in more than a decade, Mailer continues to provoke....Mailer is never an easy read...many readers will find the Satan-and-army-of-devils conceit a gimmick....Other readers will be, as always, excited by Mailer's intelligence and creativity." Booklist

Review:

"A novel as odd as it is thematically ambitious reveals the source of Adolf Hitler's evil. (The devil made him do it.)....Alternately engaging, embarrassing and exasperating." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"The Castle in the Forest is a baffling, meandering, self-indulgent curio of a book — at moments brilliantly insightful and fascinating but more often prompting jaw-dropping incredulity." The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"[F]or all his excesses, Mailer paints an icy and convincing portrait of the dictator as a young sociopath, both prissy and sadistic, simultaneously sentimental and stupendously cruel. (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"The new book is lascivious, grandiose, cosmically critical (finding something Teutonic in technology and touting it as the Devil's own handiwork) and cantankerous, filled with grandstanding pronouncements on the nature of evil." Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Review:

"As fascinating and deft as The Castle in the Forest is, it seems, at nearly 500 pages, only to have tilled the ground. Perhaps the harvest of this novelist's great talent and imagination will come in a necessary sequel." Ron Hansen, The Los Angeles Times

Review:

"[A]udacious, preposterous and often delicious....You can forgive most of his out-of-this-world setup when the stuff on the ground — plotting, characters and action — are this engagingly drawn....Give Mailer credit for taking a big swing and shining a light on a past that Hitler, himself, tried to hide." Chicago Sun-Times

Review:

"A nervy and sometimes pratfallen story, both absorbing and absurd....At its best, the book...is attention-sustaining and uncartoonish." Thomas Mallon, The Wall Street Journal

Review:

"[W]ith a narrative that alternately plods and rambles, an absence of convincing psychological insight, and an oversupply of stale literary tricks, what Mailer's novel mostly demonstrates is the evil of banality." The Houston Chronicle

Review:

"When Mailer drops the theological fantasy and concentrates on Hitler family relations, he actually delivers a compelling, convincing drama....But the devil-made-him-do-it explanation of young Adolf's start on the road to genocide feels like a cop-out. It may be a metaphor, but it's an awfully tired one." Seattle Times

Synopsis:

Mailer's first major work of fiction in more than a decade, and a work of stunning originality, explores the evil of Adolf Hitler. A tapestry of unforgettable characters, this work delivers its playful twists and surprises with astonishing insight into the nature of the struggle between good and evil that exists in everyone.

Synopsis:

Born in 1923 in Long Branch, New Jersey, and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Norman Mailer was one of the most influential writers of the second half of the twentieth century and a leading public intellectual for nearly sixty years. He is the author of more than thirty books. The Castle in the Forest, his last novel, was his eleventh New York Times bestseller. His first novel, The Naked and the Dead, has never gone out of print. His 1968 nonfiction narrative, The Armies of the Night, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He won a second Pulitzer for The Executioner’s Song and is the only person to have won Pulitzers in both fiction and nonfiction. Five of his books were nominated for National Book Awards, and he won a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation in 2005. Mr. Mailer died in 2007 in New York City.

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Norman Mailer was born in 1923 in Long Branch, New Jersey, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. In 1955, he was one of the co-founders of The Village Voice. He is the author of more than thirty books, including The Naked and the Dead; The Armies of the Night, for which he won a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; The Executioner's Song, for which he won his second Pulitzer Prize; Harlot's Ghost; Oswald's Tale; and The Gospel According to the Son. He passed away on November 10, 2007.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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rollyson2002, September 23, 2012 (view all comments by rollyson2002)
There has always been something pre-Judeo-Christian about Norman Mailer's imagination. He has a Homeric sensibility that is also at home in ancient Egypt. Monotheism hardly appeals to the Manichean Mr. Mailer. So it does not surprise me that a devil masquerading as a member of the Nazi SS narrates Mr. Mailer's first novel in more than a decade, "The Castle in the Forest" (Random House, 496 pages, $27.95).

Modern psychology, Mr. Mailer implies, cannot account for the rise of Adolf Hitler. He has a point. There are many explanations for Hitler's rise to power, but no interpretation dominates the field. Mr. Mailer knows as much because he has poured over the contemporary literature on the Führer. The novelist appends an extensive bibliography to his work, even marking with an asterisk those books he drew on for inspiration and data.

But why the devil? Because no God-centered universe could possibly produce a Hitler, Mr. Mailer implies. Such evil is only conceivable in a divided cosmogony, in a contest between God and the E. O. (Mr. Mailer's acronym for the Evil One). For decades he has championed the idea of a seesaw conflict between the forces of good and evil. The devil in "The Castle in the Forest" is like one of those Ancient Greek gods who takes a special interest in a particular mortal and helps him out when it seems the human's strength of purpose may flag.

So Adolf ��" enabled but also enervated by mother-love ��" needs a dose of the devil to enhance his prospects. Those who know Mr. Mailer's life story might think of Fanny Mailer, the maternal sentinel who presided over her son's rise to fame. Needless to say, Mr. Mailer is not equating his experience with Hitler's, but he seems to be pursuing a parallel. Remember that Mr. Mailer is also the author of "Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man" (1995), another work that attempts to fathom the origins of the artist's power. Indeed, Mr. Mailer is fond of analogizing: "Put an artist on an artist," he asserts by way of justifying his unique take on Marilyn Monroe, whom he portrayed as consumed with Napoleonic ambition in "Marilyn" (1973). To explain Mr. Mailer's choice of Hitler, the best source is Mr. Mailer's confession in "Advertisements for Myself" (1959): "The sour truth is that I am imprisoned with a perception which will settle for nothing less than making a revolution in the consciousness of our time." That kind of megalomania belies the ambition required to undertake "The Castle in the Forest."

Norman Mailer's great contribution to American literature is his effort to encompass large subjects. His aspirations are so high that he is bound to fail by any conventional standards. As soon as the SS man explains he is a devil on assignment from the E. O., my interest in his story slackened. Making Hitler a product of evil, rather than an originator of same, is troubling ��" because it denies the force of evil any human agency.

Much of the novel is third-person narration recast in the voice of the devil. Mr. Mailer has often found speaking in the third person inauthentic because he could never accept the authority of an omniscient narrator. In "The Castle in the Forest," the author has neatly solved the problem by making the narrator's voice supernatural.

The biographer in me, though, rejects the devil and wants to know more about the devil's beard, the SS man. What happens among the congregation of the devils (it has to be kept vague, lest trade secrets become known) did not interest me ��" I felt I was due back on planet Earth. I responded with a virtual shrug, for example, to the secret that devils call angels "the cudgels."

And yet the richly imagined terrestrial details ��" the depiction of Adolf's father, Alois, for example ��" marvelously re-create the Hapsburg world. The sex scenes involving Alois have the ribald verve that is vintage Mailer ��" and more humor than you would expect in the novelist's evocation of the petty despotisms of domestic life.

Enjoy this novel for its deep learning and its well-wrought characters, if not for its factitious ontology.

Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No

Product Details

ISBN:
9780812978490
Author:
Mailer, Norman
Publisher:
Random House Trade
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Sagas
Subject:
Hitler, Adolf
Subject:
Hitler family
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
Family
Subject:
Biographical fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Literary
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Reprint ed.
Publication Date:
October 16, 2007
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
496
Dimensions:
8.10x5.20x1.12 in. .81 lbs.

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The Castle in the Forest: A Novel Used Trade Paper
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Product details 496 pages Random House Trade - English 9780812978490 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Mailer did Jesus in The Gospel According to the Son; now he plumbs the psyche of history's most demonic figure in this chilling fictional chronicle of Hitler's boyhood. Mailer tells the story through the eyes of Dieter, a devil tasked by Satan (usually called the Maestro) with fostering Hitler's nascent evil, but in this study of a dysfunctional 19th-century middle-class Austrian household, the real presiding spirit is Freud. Young Adolph (often called Adi) is the offspring of an incestuous marriage between a coarse, domineering civil servant and a lasciviously indulgent mom. The boy duly develops an obsession with feces, a fascination with power, a grandiose self-image and a sexually charged yen for mass slaughter (the sight of gassed or burning beehives thrills him). Dieter frets over Hitler's ego-formation while marveling at the future dictator's burning gaze, his ability to sway weak minds and the instinctive fhrerprinzip that emerges when he plays war with neighborhood boys — talents furthered by Central Europe's ambient romantic nationalism. Mailer's view of evil embraces religions and metaphysics, but it's rooted in the squalid soil of toilet-training travails and perverted sexual urges. The novel sometimes feels like a psychoanalytic version of The Screwtape Letters, but Mailer arrives at a somber, compelling portrait of a monstrous soul." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "How could a writer as intelligent and original as Norman Mailer have digested this library of books and returned with the superficial, twisted, and finally just plain stupid vision of Hitler in this novel?...After all the decades of inquiry into Hitler by writers and historians and philosophers and psychologists, this is what Mailer has come to propose: the devil made him do it!" (read the entire New Republic review)
"Review" by , "In his first novel in more than a decade, Mailer continues to provoke....Mailer is never an easy read...many readers will find the Satan-and-army-of-devils conceit a gimmick....Other readers will be, as always, excited by Mailer's intelligence and creativity."
"Review" by , "A novel as odd as it is thematically ambitious reveals the source of Adolf Hitler's evil. (The devil made him do it.)....Alternately engaging, embarrassing and exasperating."
"Review" by , "The Castle in the Forest is a baffling, meandering, self-indulgent curio of a book — at moments brilliantly insightful and fascinating but more often prompting jaw-dropping incredulity."
"Review" by , "[F]or all his excesses, Mailer paints an icy and convincing portrait of the dictator as a young sociopath, both prissy and sadistic, simultaneously sentimental and stupendously cruel. (Grade: B)"
"Review" by , "The new book is lascivious, grandiose, cosmically critical (finding something Teutonic in technology and touting it as the Devil's own handiwork) and cantankerous, filled with grandstanding pronouncements on the nature of evil."
"Review" by , "As fascinating and deft as The Castle in the Forest is, it seems, at nearly 500 pages, only to have tilled the ground. Perhaps the harvest of this novelist's great talent and imagination will come in a necessary sequel."
"Review" by , "[A]udacious, preposterous and often delicious....You can forgive most of his out-of-this-world setup when the stuff on the ground — plotting, characters and action — are this engagingly drawn....Give Mailer credit for taking a big swing and shining a light on a past that Hitler, himself, tried to hide."
"Review" by , "A nervy and sometimes pratfallen story, both absorbing and absurd....At its best, the book...is attention-sustaining and uncartoonish."
"Review" by , "[W]ith a narrative that alternately plods and rambles, an absence of convincing psychological insight, and an oversupply of stale literary tricks, what Mailer's novel mostly demonstrates is the evil of banality."
"Review" by , "When Mailer drops the theological fantasy and concentrates on Hitler family relations, he actually delivers a compelling, convincing drama....But the devil-made-him-do-it explanation of young Adolf's start on the road to genocide feels like a cop-out. It may be a metaphor, but it's an awfully tired one."
"Synopsis" by , Mailer's first major work of fiction in more than a decade, and a work of stunning originality, explores the evil of Adolf Hitler. A tapestry of unforgettable characters, this work delivers its playful twists and surprises with astonishing insight into the nature of the struggle between good and evil that exists in everyone.
"Synopsis" by , Born in 1923 in Long Branch, New Jersey, and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Norman Mailer was one of the most influential writers of the second half of the twentieth century and a leading public intellectual for nearly sixty years. He is the author of more than thirty books. The Castle in the Forest, his last novel, was his eleventh New York Times bestseller. His first novel, The Naked and the Dead, has never gone out of print. His 1968 nonfiction narrative, The Armies of the Night, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He won a second Pulitzer for The Executioner’s Song and is the only person to have won Pulitzers in both fiction and nonfiction. Five of his books were nominated for National Book Awards, and he won a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation in 2005. Mr. Mailer died in 2007 in New York City.

From the Hardcover edition.

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