Latest Issue

The executioner’s voice

Jonathan Littell's doorstopper novel is not merely a feat of linguistic audacity—it also raises profound questions about history, morality and luck

Les Bienveillantes by Jonathan Littell (Gallimard, €25)

The rentrée littéraire season in Paris in 2006 was notable for the number of prizes awarded to novels by writers whose first language isn’t French. The anglophone Canadian writer Nancy Huston won the Prix Femina, while the Prix Renaudot went to Alain Mabanckou, a Congolese-born novelist who lives in the US. But the most newsworthy prizewinner was the American Jonathan Littell, whose novel Les Bienveillantes (The Kindly Ones) took the Prix Académie française and the Goncourt and has sold more than 300,000 copies in just over three months (obliging the publisher to requisition…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect