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Jonathan Littell

Jonathan Littell
Jonathan Littell in 2007
Born (1967-10-10) October 10, 1967
New York City, New York, United States
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Notable works The Kindly Ones (Les Bienveillantes)
Notable awards Prix Goncourt
Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française
Relatives Robert Littell (father)

Jonathan Littell (born 10 October 1967) is a writer living in French, The Kindly Ones (2006; Les Bienveillantes), won two major French awards, including the Prix Goncourt and the Prix de l'Académie française.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Works 2
  • Awards 3
  • On Israel 4
  • Works 5
  • Awards 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9

Early life and career

Littell is the son of author Robert Littell. Although his grandparents were Jews who emigrated from Russia to the United States at the end of the 19th century, Littell does not define himself as a Jew "at all," and is quoted as saying, "for me Judaism is more [of] a historical background."[1]

Born in Bataille and Beckett.[3] Afterwards, he worked as a translator, rendering French works by Sade, Blanchot, Genet and Quignard into English.[4][5] At the same time, he started to write a ten-volume book, but gave up the pharaonic project after the third volume.[6]

From 1994 to 2001, he worked for the international humanitarian organization

  • Littell, Jonathan; Blumenfeld, Samuel (November 17, 2006). "Littell Interview with Samuel Blumenfeld".  

Further reading

  • Combes, Marie-Laure (October 9, 2007). "American Novelist Becomes French Citizen". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  • Garcin, Jérôme (November 6, 2006). "Littell est grand, de Jérôme Garcin".  
  • Landler, Mark (March 9, 2007). "Writer’s Unlikely Hero: A Deviant Nazi".  
  • Lemonier, Marc (2007), Les Bienveillantes décryptées, Le Pré aux Clercs, p. 249,  
  • Littell, Jonathan; Georgesco, Florent (January 2007). "Jonathan Littell, homme de l'année".  
  • Littell, Jonathan;  
  • Littell, Jonathan;  
  • Uni, Assaf (May 30, 2008). "The executioner's song".  


  1. ^ a b c d e Assaf 2008
  2. ^ Alfred University 2004
  3. ^ Littell & Nora 2007, p. 26
  4. ^ Lemonier 2007, p. 14
  5. ^ Littell & Georgesco 2007
  6. ^ Littell & Millet 2007, p. 26
  7. ^ HarperCollins
  8. ^ Prague Watchdog 2001
  9. ^ Combes 2007
  10. ^ Landler 2007
  11. ^ Garcin 2006
  12. ^ Littell & Nora 2007, p. 28
  13. ^ Le Figaro 2006
  14. ^ The Literary Review
  15. ^ Lea, Richard. [2] "Bad sex award goes to Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones", The Guardian, 2009-11-30. Retrieved on 2009-12-06.



  • 1989 – Bad Voltage
  • 2006 – Les Bienveillantes (The Kindly Ones, 2009)
  • 2006 – The Security Organs of the Russian Federation. A Brief History 1991–2004
  • 2008 – Le Sec et L'Humide
  • 2008 – Études
  • 2008 – Georgisches Reisetagebuch
  • 2009 – Récit sur Rien
  • 2009 – Tchétchénie, An III
  • 2010 – En Pièces
  • 2011 – Triptyque: Trois études sur Francis Bacon (Triptych: Three Studies after Francis Bacon, 2013)
  • 2011 – The Invisible Enemy
  • 2012 – Une vieille histoire
  • 2012 – Carnets de Homs (Syrian Notebooks: Inside the Homs uprising, 2015)
  • 2013 – The Fata Morgana Books


In a May 2008 interview with Haaretz, Littell accused Israel of using the Holocaust for political gain and likened Israel's behavior in the occupied territories to that of the Nazis prior to World War II: "If the [Israeli] government would let the soldiers do worse things, they would. Everyone says, 'Look how the Germans dealt with the Jews even before the Holocaust: cutting the beards, humiliating them in public, forcing them to clean the street.' That kind of stuff happens in the territories every day. Every goddamn day." However, he also said that "[w]e really cannot compare the two" and did not specify in what ways he feels the Israeli government uses the Holocaust for political gain.[1]

On Israel

Littell was recognised for his contributions in the area of overwrought erotica when the English translation of The Kindly Ones won the 2009 Bad Sex in Fiction Award [14] from The Literary Review, a British literary journal. Littell reportedly beat tough competition for that year's honours, with Philip Roth and Nick Cave among the writers filling out the short list.[15]

The Kindly Ones won the 2006 Prix Goncourt and the grand prix du roman of the Académie française. By the end of 2007, more than 700,000 copies had been sold in France.[13]


Littell's only previously published book, the Russian Federation, an analysis of Léon Degrelle's book La Campagne de Russie, influenced by the works of the sociologist Klaus Theweleit, one book with four texts written before The Kindly Ones and, finally, a short essay.

Littell said he was inspired to write the novel after seeing a photograph of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, a Soviet partisan executed by the Nazis. He traces the original inspiration for the book from seeing Claude Lanzmann’s film Shoah, an acclaimed documentary about the Holocaust, in 1991. He began research for the book in 2001 and started the first draft eighteen months later, after he had read around two hundred books about Nazi Germany and the Eastern Front,[11] as well as visiting Germany, East Europe and Caucasus. Littell claims that he undertook the creation of his main character, Aue, by imagining what he himself would have done had he been born in pre-war Germany and had become a Nazi.[1]

Littell's novel The Kindly Ones was written in French and was published in France in 2006. The novel is the story of World War II and the Eastern Front, through the fictional memories of an articulate SS officer named Maximilien Aue.[10]


Littell obtained French citizenship (while being able to keep the American one) in March 2007 after French officials made use of a clause stating that any French speaker whose "meritorious actions contribute to the glory of France" are allowed to become citizens, despite not fulfilling the requirement that he live in France for more than six months out of the year.[9]


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