Luc Rasson | Engagement als (zelf)onthulling: over Jonathan Littels Les Bienveillantes


How does commitment work in a novel whose narrator upholds political views and ethical standards that are unacceptable to the common reader? In Jonathan Littel’s Les Bienveillantes the former SS officer who tells the story of his participation in the Final Solution is unable to preserve the coherence of his own point of view. He becomes entangled in a web of contradictions that delegitimize his discourse. Moreover, the peculiar insight the narrator gains after his headwound at Stalingrad, allows him to see the truth of the national-socialist ideology, namely its inability to acknowledge the presence of the other in the self. This device of the narrator speaking unwillingly against himself can be considered a form of “paradoxical commitment”.

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