The Gospel According to the Son ; now he plumbs the psyche of history's most demonic figure in this chilling fictional chronicle of Hitler"/>
 

The Castle in the Forest

Norman Mailer, Author
Norman Mailer, Author . Random $26.95 (477p) ISBN 978-0-394-53649-1
Reviewed on: 11/06/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007

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 führerprinzip 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)

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