The Castle in the Forest

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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 ...
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Castle in the Forest

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Since he first surfaced in 1948 with The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer has punctuated his literary career with several carefully calibrated surprises. Never hesitant to tackle controversial subjects, he has written books about Jesus, Pablo Picasso, Marilyn Monroe, serial killer Gary Gilmore, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Muhammad Ali, and Lee Harvey Oswald, among others. Now this two-time Pulitzer laureate wrestles with the arch-tyrant of recent history, Adolph Hitler. The Castle in the Forest resembles a championship match: 80-year-old Mailer still grappling with the evil that bedevils us all. A major literary event.
Publishers Weekly
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 fuhrerprinzip 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. (Jan. 23) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Mailer's first novel in a decade is a deceptively dry psychobiography of young Adolf Hitler or, more accurately, of Hitler's dysfunctional family. Mailer's unreliable narrator, one of Heinrich Himmler's SS investigators, painstakingly documents the family curse of incest and concludes that Hitler's father, a womanizing customs official, married his own illegitimate daughter. But as the book unfolds, the narrator also reveals that he is really a devil working directly for the Evil One. Since the story ends before the outbreak of World War I, readers hoping for battlefield action or beer hall brawls will be disappointed. Instead, lengthy chapters are devoted to the family's doomed attempts at commercial honey production. Longtime Mailer fans will spot provocative tie-ins to many of the earlier novels, including The Naked and the Dead (1948) and The Gospel According to the Son (1996). Who knew that Mailer was an amateur theologian? This gloomy and claustrophobic book is unlikely to become a best seller, but it is an important addition to the Mailer canon and an essential purchase for collections of postwar American fiction. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/06.]-Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A novel as odd as it is thematically ambitious reveals the source of Adolf Hitler's evil. (The devil made him do it.)Having assumed the voice of Jesus in an earlier novel (The Gospel According to the Son, 1997), the irrepressible Mailer here gives the darker spiritual forces their due. Narrated by a former German SS officer who ultimately reveals a number of surprising secrets-about both himself and the Hitler family-the plot encompasses the incest leading to Adolf's conception and the first 13 years of his life. With a conversational tone that is never ponderous yet not quite comic, the narrator illuminates intimate details of Adolf's parents' sexual life, as well as their baby's breast-feeding and bowel movements. It probes the sibling rivalries that result in the death of one brother (perhaps with Adolf's complicity) and the departure of another, a wilder boy than young Adolf. It finds psychological significance in the ways that the Hitler parents relate to each child (and the way those relationships shift with new arrivals) as well as to each other. The novel also has a penchant for nicknames: "Adi" for Adolf, "Nicky" for Tsar Nicholas II (as the plot briefly abandons the Hitlers for Russia) and "Heini" for Himmler. Despite an exhaustive bibliography that indicates historical research, the narrator never claims that he is writing the secret history or the true story of the young Adolf Hitler. Instead, he maintains throughout that this work is a novel, which may be truer than the history that the narrator dismisses as "a pack of lies." It turns out that the devil is in all sorts of details, from art to dreams to computer technology. Yet the questions persist: What is Mailer up to? Whydoes the narrative stop in the early teens of the future Fuhrer? And why does Adolf keep having those inappropriate erections and ejaculations in the forest?Alternately engaging, embarrassing and exasperating. Agent: Andrew Wylie/Wylie Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394536491
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/23/2007
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Norman Mailer
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. Mr. Mailer passed away Saturday November 10th, 2007.

Biography

One of the most provocative authors of the 20th century, Norman Mailer stood at the forefront of the New Journalism, a form of creative nonfiction that wove autobiography, real events, and political commentary into unconventional novels. In a career that spanned nearly 60 years, he wrote more than 30 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; The Gospel According to the Son; and his last novel, The Castle in the Forest, a chilling fictional portrait of the youthful Adolf Hitler. On November 10, 2007, he died of renal failure, leaving behind an astonishing literary legacy.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Nachem Malech Mailer
      Norman Mailer
    2. Hometown:
      Provincetown, Massachusetts, and New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 31, 1923
    2. Place of Birth:
      Long Branch, New Jersey
    1. Date of Death:
      November 10, 2007

Read an Excerpt

The Castle in the Forest

A Novel
By Norman Mailer

Random House

Copyright © 2007 Norman Mailer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0394536495

1

You may call me D.T. That is short for Dieter, a German name, and D.T. will do, now that I am in America, this curious nation. If I draw upon reserves of patience, it is because time passes here without meaning for me, and that is a state to dispose one to rebellion. Can this be why I am writing a book? Among my former associates, we had to swear never to undertake such an action. I was, after all, a member of a matchless Intelligence group. Its classification was SS, Special Section IV-2a, and we were directly under the supervision of Heinrich Himmler. Today, the man is seen as a monster, and I would not look to defend him--he turned out to be one hell of a monster. All the same, Himmler did have an original mind, and one of his theses does take me into my literary intentions, which are, I promise, not routine.

2

The room that Himmler used when speaking to our elite group was a small lecture hall with dark walnut paneling and was limited to twenty seats raked upward in four rows of five. My emphasis will not be, however, on such descriptions. I prefer to concern myself with Himmler's unorthodox concepts. They may even have stimulated me to begin a memoir that is bound to prove unsettling. I know that I will sail into a sea of turbulence, for I must uproot many a conventional belief. A cacophony erupts in my spirit at the thought. As Intelligence officers, we often seek towarp our findings. Mendacity, after all, possesses its own art, but this is a venture that will ask me to forsake such skills.

Enough! Let me present Heinrich Himmler. You, the reader, must be prepared for no easy occasion. This man, whose nickname, behind his back, was Heini, had become by 1938 one of the four truly important leaders in Germany. Yet his most cherished and secret intellectual pursuit was the study of incest. It dominated our highest-level research, and our findings were kept to closed conferences. Incest, Heini would propose, had always been rife among the poor of all lands. Even our German peasantry had been much afflicted, yes, even as late as the nineteenth century. "Normally, no one in learned circles cares to speak of the matter," he would remark. "After all, there is nothing to be done. Who would bother to call some poor wretch a certified offspring of incest? No, every establishment of every civilized nation looks to sweep such stuff under the rug."

That is, all ranking government officials in the world except for our Heinrich Himmler. He did have the most extraordinary ideas fermenting behind his unhappy spectacles. I must repeat that for a man with a bland and chinless mug, he certainly exhibited a frustrating mixture of brilliance and stupidity. For example, he declared himself to be a pagan. He predicted that there would be a healthy future for humankind once paganism took over the world. Everyone's soul would then be enriched with hitherto unacceptable pleasures. None of us could conceive, however, of an orgy where carnality would rise to such a pitch that you might find a woman ready to throw herself into a flesh-melting roll with Heinrich Himmler. No, not even in the most innovative spirit! For you could always see his face as it must once have been at a school dance, that bespectacled disapproving stare of the wallflower, tall, thin, a youth full of physical ineptitude. Already he had a small potbelly. There he was, ready to wait by the wall while the dance went on.

Yet he grew obsessed over the years with matters others did not dare to mention aloud (which, I must say, is usually the first step to new thought). In fact, he paid close attention to mental retardation. Why? Because Himmler subscribed to the theory that the best human possibilities lie close to the worst. So he was ready to assume that promising children when found in low, nondescript families could be "incestuaries." The word in German, as he coined it, was Inzestuarier. He did not like the more common term of such disgrace, Blutschande (blood-scandal), or as it is sometimes employed in polite circles, Dramatik des Blutes (blood-drama).

None of us felt sufficiently qualified to say that his theory could be dismissed. Even in the early years of the SS, Himmler had recognized that one of our prime needs was to develop exceptional research groups. We had a duty to search into ultimates. As Himmler put it, the health of National Socialism depended on nothing less than these letzte Fragen (last questions). We were to explore problems that other nations did not dare to go near. Incest was at the head of the list. The German mind had to re-establish itself again as the leading inspiration to the learned world. In turn--so went his unstated coupling--much recognition might be given to Heinrich Himmler for his profound attack on problems originating in the agricultural milieu. He would emphasize the underlying point: Husbandry could hardly be investigated without comprehending the peasant. Yet to understand this man of the earth was to speak of incest.

Here, I promise you, he would hold up his hand in precisely that little gesture Hitler used to employ--one prissy flip of the wrist. It was Heinrich's way of saying: "Now comes the meat. And with it--the potatoes!" Off he would go on a peroration. "Yes," he would say, "incest! This is one very good reason that old peasants are devout. An acute fear of the sinful is bound to display itself by one of two extremes: Absolute devotion to religious practice. Or nihilism. I can recall from my student days that the Marxist Friedrich Engels once wrote, 'When the Catholic Church decided adultery was impossible to prevent, they made divorce impossible to obtain.' A brilliant remark even if it comes from the wrong mouth. As much can be said for blood-scandal. That is also impossible to prevent. So, the peasant looks to keep himself devout." He nodded. He nodded again as if two good pumps of his head might be the minimum necessary to convince us that he was speaking from both sides of his heart.

How often, he asked, could the average peasant of the last century avoid these blood temptations? After all, that was not so easy. Peasants, it had to be said, were not usually attractive people. Their features were worn away by hard labor. Besides, they reeked of the field and the barn. Personal odors were at the mercy of hot summers. Under such circumstances, would not basic impulses trigger forbidden inclinations? Given the paucity of their social life, how were they to acquire the ability to stay away from entanglements with brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters?

He did not go on to speak of the pell-mell of limbs and torsos formed by three or four children in a bed, nor the ham-handed naturalness of the most agreeable work of all--that hard-breathing, feverish meat-heavy run up the hills of physical joy--but he did declare, "More than a few in the agricultural sector come, willy-nilly, to see incest as an acceptable option. Who, after all, is most likely to find the honorable work-hardened features of the father or the brother particularly attractive? The sisters, of course! Or the daughters. Often they are the only ones. The father, having created them, remains the focus of their attention."

Hand it to Himmler. He had been storing theories in his head for two decades. A great believer in Schopenhauer, he would also give prominence to a word still relatively new in 1938--genes. These genes, he said, were the biological embodiment of Schopenhauer's concept of the Will. They are the basic element of this mysterious Will. "We know," he said, "that instincts can be passed from one generation to the next. Why? I would say it is in the nature of the Will to remain true to its origins. I even speak of that as a Vision, yes, gentlemen, a force that lives at the core of our human existence. It is this Vision which separates us from the animals. From the beginning of our time on earth, we humans have been seeking to rise to the unseen heights that lie ahead.

"Of course, there are impediments to such a great goal. The most exceptional of our genes must still be able to surmount the privations, humiliations, and tragedies of life as the genes are transmitted from father to child, generation after generation. Great leaders, I would tell you, are rarely the product of one father and one mother. It is more likely that the rare leader is the one who has succeeded in breaking through the bonds that held back ten frustrated generations who could not express the Vision in their own lives but did pass it on through their genes.

"Needless to say, I have arrived at these concepts by meditat- ing upon the life of Adolf Hitler. His heroic rise resonates in our hearts. Since he issues, as we know, from a long line of modest peasant stock, his life demonstrates a superhuman achievement. Absolute awe must overwhelm us."

As Intelligence agents, we were smiling within. This had been the peroration. Now our Heinrich was ready to enter what Americans call the nitty-gritty. "The real question to be asked," he said, "is how does the brilliance of the Vision protect itself from being dulled by commingling? That is implicit in the process of so-called normal reproduction. Contemplate the multimillions of sperm. One of them has to travel all the way up to the ovum of the female. To each lonely sperm cell swimming in the uterine sea, that ovum will loom as large as a battle cruiser." He paused before he nodded. "The same readiness for self-sacrifice that will carry men at war through an uphill attack on a forbidding ridge must exist in healthy sperm. The essence of the male seed is that it is ready to commit itself to just such immolation in order that one of them, at least, will reach the ovum!"

He stared at us. Could we share his excitement? "The next question," he said, "soon arises. Will the genes of the woman be compatible with the sperm cell that has managed to reach her? Or will these separate elements find their respective genes to be in dispute? Are they about to act like unhappy husbands and wives? Yes, I would answer, dispute is often the prevailing case. The meeting may prove sufficiently compatible for procreation to occur, but the combination of their genes is hardly guaranteed to be in harmony.

"When we speak, therefore, of the human desire to create that man who will embody the Vision--the Superman--we have to consider the odds. Not even one in a million families can present us with a husband and a wife who are close enough in the inclination of their genes to bring forth a miraculous child. Not even one, perhaps, in a hundred million. No!"--again the upraised hand--"let us say, closer to a million million. In the case of Adolf Hitler, the numbers may approach the awesome distances we encounter in astronomy.

"So, gentlemen, logic would propose that any Superman who embodies the Vision, is bound to come forth from a mating of exceptionally similar genetic ingredients. Only then will these separate embodiments of the Vision be ready to reinforce each other."

Who could not see what Heinrich was aiming at? Incest offered the nearest possibility for such unity of purpose.

"Yet," said Himmler, "to be reasonable, we must also agree that life is not always ready to certify such an event. Debased males and females are the ones who usually come into the world from these family intimacies. We have to recognize that products of incest usually suffer childhood ills and early deaths. Anomalies abound, even exhibitions of physical monstrosity."

He stood there, sad and stern. "That is the price. Not only are many reinforced good tendencies likely to be present in an inces- tuary, but unhappy inclinations can be magnified as well. Insta- bility is, therefore, a common product of incest. Idiocy waits in the wings. And when a vital possibility exists for the development of a great spirit, this rare human must still overcome a host of frus- trations profound enough to unhinge the brain or induce early death." So spoke Heinrich Himmler.

I think all of us present knew the subtext of these remarks. Back in 1938, we were looking (in greatest secrecy, you may be certain) to determine whether our Führer was a first- or second-degree incestuary. Or neither. If not, if neither, then Himmler's theory would remain groundless. But if our Führer was a true product of incest, then he was more than a glowing example of the likelihood of the thesis, he might be the proof itself.

Continues...

Excerpted from The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer Copyright © 2007 by Norman Mailer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 28 )
Rating Distribution

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(5)

4 Star

(6)

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(5)

2 Star

(6)

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(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2009

    Not what I expected

    This is an excellant book on tape, but I think it would be a very difficult book to read.

    I am enjoying the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    CD/unabridged/Literature: Where do I start? Well, I'm giving i

    CD/unabridged/Literature: Where do I start? Well, I'm giving it four stars and I hate that I liked it. I mean, it's about Hitler!

    The narrator was Harris Yulin and he does a great job narrating with an American accent while doing the voices in a German one. (Harris Yulin played Head Watcher Quentin Travers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy: "....and with out the slayer, you're just watching Masterpiece Theatre".) This novel is 15 discs long and had to have a good narrator. I don't think I could have read it; listening was easier. The book is a dramatization of conversations.

    This book is supposed to be about Hitler's childhood and his journey through being a sociopath. The book is mostly about his father Alois Hitler. The book is narrated by Dieter, an SS Officer. Dieter reveals himself as a devil. Not the big guy, just a henchman. He is sent, on and off through the years, to the Hitler home, before Adolf is born, to "guide" and watch the family. He tells the reader that he is writing down his memoirs of his time there, but is afraid there may be retribution. The book only goes up to Alois' death so Adolf is really young throughout the book. Adolf is evil as a child.

    While there are many theories on who Adolf's grandfather was, Mailer makes it clear how he feels. (I did look on Wikipedia to see if his theory had any merit...and it does.) Mailer's theory is that Hitler was a nut because he was a product of incest. There are apparently three men that could have been his grandfather. Two of the men would be blood relatives and one a Jew. Alois, Hitler's father and a whoredog himself, marries his third wife, Adolf's mother, who is either is niece or his daughter. (Later in Adolf's life, he has a relationship with is niece).

    This book goes in too many directions, but Mailer books usually do. I now know more about beekeeping than ever. The book also moves to Russia and spends two discs on the early Romanov marriage. The book goes into Adolf's older brother Alois Junior's sexual exploits which has no relevance to shaping Hitler. Dieter also tells us not to put too much into Adolf seeing a religious swastika on a door or watching bees getting gassed with sulfur in their hives. The novel goes into Adolf liking to play war games in the woods with the neighborhood kids, but does not go in the depth you would think. Mailer concentrated more on Adolf's bowel movements as a toddler, masturbation habits, becoming a confident liar, and feeling no guilt.

    The funniest (as in odd) part of this book is when I went to Wikipedia to see what this book was all about. (I bought the audio for $3 bucks at a library sale). The book had gotten Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award for 2007. The problem was I could not figure out which scene they were talking about. All the scenes were crude. Alois and Adolf's mother wallow like animals and Alois Junior homosexual act are shallow. (Makes you wonder because Mailer was married six times.)

    Do I recommend it? Well, if your a Mailer fan, yes. If you're not a Mailer fan, you're probably not going to like this book. But I have to say, it was entertaining and the audio was well read. BTW, this book was suppose to be a trilogy of Hitler's life, but Mailer died soon after this first part was published.

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  • Posted October 29, 2009

    AWFUL

    I have never read such garbage.I quite after 5 chapters.It was beyond vulgar.I want the 2 hours of my life I wasted back.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Drivel

    A shame Norman Mailer ended career with this wandering drivel with little redeaming in it.

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  • Posted June 14, 2009

    Did not like

    I didn't even read the entire book. The writing became very satanic in nature and this is not what I had expected from it. I would not recommend it to anyone for any reason.

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  • Posted June 11, 2009

    Waste of paper

    What the heck was he thinking, write something to make a few bucks? Must be his worst book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2007

    I loved it! Got me hooked on Mailer!

    I could not put this down...which as a college student it dangerous! I even have started to read it again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2007

    UGH...

    I thought this book would be interesting based on the summary....but really this book droned on and on without very much mention of Adolf at all. I suffered through the first 314 pages then finally ditched it. I couldn't take it anymore. On to something better. Sorry I wasted my time and money.....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2007

    A reviewer

    I couldn't wait to get this book!!! Now, I can't wait to get rid of it. If this is Norman Mailer's last book, it would suit me. It grovels, not even the charactures are interesting. Norman is starting to seem like a dirty old man writing, yikes, Norman, obviously knows nothing about women or their sexuality. Crude is one word for it. I'm angry I spent the money on it and wasted the time on anticipation of it. What a stinker.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2007

    So, what is Different in Your Life?

    I am a fan of Norman Mailer¿s from a long time back. Starting in WWII with his Naked and the Dead. I had expected tumultuous events in this `biography¿ but did not find any. It is strange for me to read the parallel reviews of readers which point out such topics that reveal the real and forthcoming Hitler, items such as feces, seeing his overbearing father, his loving to lead boy- soldiers and be a leader to be strong and steely 'the dreams of most boys, right?', to see weakness in the parents. Who among us has not had such experiences and thoughts? There were also the good points that any normal father may use to offset his bad points, as when Alois took Adi to visit Die Alte. And a supportive mother who was always there for him. And we all walk around with some `other person¿ in our imagination, giving us ideas, unsuspected thoughts. We may never have had an SS officer, but there were enough extraneous evil thoughts in movies and the daily news and now TV. A very ordinary boy, brought up in an ordinary home, with some unseen, not discussed family history in the closets¿ which did not necessarily have genetic implications in Adi¿s gene pool. Very similar, probably, to my own life, with its embarrassing events, unfulfilled desires. Is that the message? Perhaps that is the Mailer¿s message. A boy brought up in Austria may be equivalent to a boy brought up then in the U.S., or now, in either country

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2007

    A reviewer

    I thought this novel would be the best case study on Adolf Hitler from the fiction genre. Instead, I get a story about the everyday life of Alois Hitler. The demon who is assigned to the Hitler does not give a clear answer as to what events changed Adolf's life. What about this life as a young adult? Maybe I was expecting too much from Mailer, but after reading 'The Gospel According to the Son,' I just knew this was going to be a novel I would dream about. Instead, my only dream was to finish it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2007

    AWFUL

    /very dissapointing, impossible to complete, so boring I thought I would scream. It will only sell because of the writers previous reputation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2007

    Up All Night

    I stayed up all night reading this book. I couldn't make myself put it down. The writing style is so fluid and easy to read. The content gives you so much to think about. A masterful portrait.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2007

    How ordinary

    Trying to analyze the phenomenon that was Hitler by examining his family and childhood is a fascinating idea. However, both he and his family were surprisingly ordinary. It is only through 20-20 hindsight and the conceit of taking the viewpoint of one of the Devli's minions that one can read into these dull lives the horrors that are to come. If the names were changed I doubt anyone would read past the middle of this mundane tale.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2007

    Fantastic

    Norman Mailer¿s new novel,'The Castle in the Forest' /em , published on his 84th birthday in January, is an eccentric imagining about the young Adolph Hitler, narrated by a top lieutenant of The Devil. The philandering and rationalized dysfunctions characterizing prevailing Hitler Family Values in the future Fuhrer's early life gives us a vivid, arresting depiction of the making of a Monster. Incident after incident, ranging from his father Alois's incestuous infidelities the youth's rapt fascination in a village blacksmith's theories on how a Will of Iron is galvanized, Mailer's use of the narrating demon gives a feeling of when the worm had turned. It's good, wonderfully seductive, a tale you can't turn away from. Among Mailer's life long themes have been various examinations of the gaining and use of power, for purposes good or ill. This theme, Mailer¿s central obsession in his fifty years of authoring books, is obvious in such varied novels as 'An American Dream', the staggering, problematic fiction where an alcoholic writer and television personality murdering his estranged wife from intuited instructions from the moon, or in 'Ancient Evenings', where reincarnation and sexual domination are the means to control and manage one¿s journey through history. The first person memoir of Jesus Christ in 'The Gospel According to the Son', where we witness the bizarre difficulty of being half man and half divine in the exercise of godly powers with a very mortal sense of weariness and exhaustion, while within the generational CIA novel 'Harlot¿s Ghost' Cold War intelligence gathering becomes akin to religious practice and operatives must ironically acquire the capacity for amoral application of trade craft to preserve the rumored good of their cause. Diverse though the settings and eras are, Mailer¿s fiction all have similar existential notion, whether his protagonists take responsibility for the actions given them by respective flights of intuition, voices from ashen moonscapes, or the whispers of ghosts and spirits. Mailer has defined his idea of existentialism as the practice of taking risks and accepting challenges without regard to trying to control the results. It is the pure state of happenstance that real and authentic choices are made, with the manipulation or denial of the requisites ending badly, in disease, disaster, war, lost hope. 'The Castle in the Forest'¿s imagined portrait of a world scourge emerging from a festering mess will give one something to ponder, perhaps in a pause of action when one is deciding whether to be a bastard by exacting a revenge for a slight, real or imagined, or whether will be mature enough to let the irritation fade and thus not make the world a more sour place. The beating of butterfly wings indeed our good works, enacted in good faith, has an effect on how history turns out, but the sad fact is that our worst deeds seem to swell faster and sweep aside all good intentions in their tsunami like rush. Our narrator, a lieutenant of Satan going by the name DT, or Dieter, here tells his tale in Elaborate detail, extended digressions, anecdotes about what it¿s like to work for such a horrific employer and characterizations of the small nuances of the war between heaven and hell. Young Hitler is nudged, whispered to, exposed to various stimulations, excitements and harsh experiences, made to witness great spectacles and various forms of cruelty and abuse. Worse, perhaps, DT gives the young Adolph¿s ears the speeches of vain and minor men and women speaking volumes about their best intentions, only to have their asides and instructions and philosophical squibs given the lie by crudity, violence. The petty vanities of Hitler¿s parents¿a preening brute of a father, a doting and emotionally confused mother¿and their sustained failures to be ballast for their children are portraits worthy of Faulkner of a family held together with promiscuous applications of bad faith. Adolph

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2007

    A lover of books

    I was rather sorry that I purchased this book. I found it boring and ridiculous and by page 200, I returned it to my bookshelves. Maybe I was expecting too much after The Naked and the Dead and The Armies of the Night. Or,I missed something that made this story come together at some point. Could be that the fault is mine and not Mr. Mailer's.

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    Posted May 18, 2011

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    Posted June 30, 2010

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    Posted October 28, 2008

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    Posted July 2, 2009

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