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Such amateurishness …

Neal Ascherson: The Sufferings of a Young Nazi

30 April 2009
The Kindly Ones 
by Jonathan Littell, translated by Charlotte Mandell.
Chatto, 984 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 0 7011 8165 9
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... the manager of a textile factory, he is settling down to write an account of his hidden Nazi life – ostensibly for his own satisfaction, or perhaps ‘to kill time before it finally kills you’. JonathanLittell, an American educated in France, wrote The Kindly Ones in French. It won the Prix Goncourt and sold a million copies in Europe. The reception in Anglophone countries but especially in Germany ...

Syrian Notebooks

Jonathan Littell

1 March 2012
... They’ve​ been calling me Al-Ghadab, “Fury”, from the beginning,’ the smuggler said, his big beard split by a mischievous smile, ‘But I laugh all the time!’ A stocky man wearing a black tracksuit and carrying two mobile phones, Fury stood in a freezing apartment in Tripoli. Two men were with him, both Lebanese, smugglers apparently. But he wasn’t a professional. ‘When it began ...

Taking Refuge in the Loo

Leland de la Durantaye: Peter Handke

21 May 2014
Versuch über den Pilznarren: Eine Geschichte für sich 
by Peter Handke.
Suhrkamp, 217 pp., £14.70, September 2013, 978 3 518 42383 7
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Peter Handke im Gespräch, mit Hubert Patterer und Stefan Winkler 
Kleine Zeitung, 120 pp., £15.36, November 2012, 978 3 902819 14 7Show More
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... for 1999. Susan Sontag said that there were many many people who would never pick up one of his books again. Presenting the matter in the starkest possible terms, the human rights worker and novelist JonathanLittell remarked in 2008: When a family is sitting in its house in Foca and suddenly someone bursts in with a machine gun, chains up the daughter to the radiator and rapes her in front of her family ...

Lost in the Void

Jonathan Littell: In Ciudad Juárez

7 June 2012
... Over Sixty Hours without an Execution.’ When PM, the biggest tabloid in Ciudad Juárez, can’t find a corpse to put on its front page, it has to come up with something. On 21 November last year it announced that ‘the city has just experienced an unusual outbreak of peace … the longest for three years. Newspaper statistics show that from 29 December 2008, fifty hours passed without a killing ...

Infisal! Infisal! Infisal!

Jonathan Littell: A Journey in South Sudan

30 June 2011
... They’ll never pull it off, people said. Too little time, too little money, obstruction from the North … The April 2010 elections – both presidential and local – had gone poorly, ‘highly chaotic, non-transparent, and vulnerable to electoral manipulation’, as the international observers from the Carter Center declared. And a failed referendum would be even worse than no referendum at all ...

Chechnya, Year III

Jonathan Littell: Ramzan Kadyrov

19 November 2009
... Since Ramzan Kadyrov, the young president of Chechnya, is, as everyone knows, ‘the greatest builder in the world’, it’s a happy chance that has the visitor from abroad arriving in Grozny on 27 April, the eve of Dyen Stroitelei, Builders’ Day, so called to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Ministry of Construction. Tamir, a young Chechen press attaché assigned to help me, had invited me ...

The Hijackers

Hugh Roberts: What will happen to Syria?

15 July 2015
From Deep State to Islamic State: The Arab Counter-Revolution and Its Jihadi Legacy 
by Jean-Pierre Filiu.
Hurst, 328 pp., £15.99, July 2015, 978 1 84904 546 9
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Syrian Notebooks: Inside the Homs Uprising 
by Jonathan Littell.
Verso, 246 pp., £12.99, April 2015, 978 1 78168 824 3
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The Rise of Islamic State: Isis and the New Sunni Revolution 
by Patrick Cockburn.
Verso, 192 pp., £9.99, January 2015, 978 1 78478 040 1
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Isis: Inside the Army of Terror 
by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan.
Regan Arts, 288 pp., £12.99, February 2015, 978 1 941393 57 4
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... the al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, were gaining ground. This development signed the revolution’s death warrant. One picture of the condition of the armed rebellion in early 2012 is provided by JonathanLittell, who got himself smuggled into Syria from northern Lebanon and witnessed what was going on in Qusayr and the rebel-held neighbourhoods of Homs. His book, a diary of 18 intense days, consists ...

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