The Devil You Know, The Devil You Don't

Norman Mailer channels one of hell's angels in his saga of the Hitler family

Mailer's prose can turn gnarly on a dime; his humor is often labored. At the same time, he can poke a hole through almost any human head, shine a flashlight inside, and tell you exactly what's in there.

Satan's narrator: Mailer in 1987
Stephen Rose/Getty Images
Satan's narrator: Mailer in 1987


The Castle in the Forest
by Norman Mailer
Random House, 477 pp., $27.95

Mailer accomplishes the counter-myth. Hitler is not a monster: Monsters aren't human, and hence aren't responsible for inhuman behavior. Mailer accepts this without letting Adolf off the hook. Nor does he neglect to acknowledge what is terra incognita. Everything in Hitler's life that Castle paints for us resonates with the sour music of chance, the Manichean flexibility of human will, and the mystery embedded in every creature.

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