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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Zoë Roth

Roth, Zoe (2017). War of Images or Images of War? Visualizing History in Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones. Journal of Modern Literature 41(1): 81-99.

Author(s) from Durham


The Kindly Ones (2006), a French novel written by the American author Jonathan Littell, explores the Holocaust from a perpetrator's point of view. The novel is replete with detailed historical analysis and intertextual references, but its narrative is also highly visual. From the perpetrator's gaze to the archive of perpetrator images that circulate in the text, the novel's visual objects are sites where violence is waged and imagined. Rather than depicting only the Holocaust and WWII, however, The Kindly Ones creates an alternative archive of images that brings this past into contact with Algeria, Vietnam, and 9/11. The novel not only offers images of war, it represents a “war of images” that evinces post-9/11 anxieties about the power of images to produce, and not simply represent, violence. By visualizing previously imperceptible relations, this quintessential historical novel offers a model for historicizing the present, not the past.