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Bombast as art

In portraying Hitler as the product of a diabolical incest, Norman Mailer has taken fictional ambition to a remote peak of implausibility

The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer (Little, Brown, £17.99)

There can be little doubt that The Castle in the Forest needs to be consigned at once to the underworld inhabited by Norman Mailer’s most remarkable fictional disasters. At times the novel ranks for ridiculousness alongside Ancient Evenings, his never-to-be-reread 1983 epic of ancient Egypt. But a closer analogy may be with Harlot’s Ghost, the interminably baggy über-narrative of the CIA he published in 1991, an opus which set out to embrace “the mind of America” and which concluded after 1,168 exhausting pages with an epigraph to confound even…

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