Author(s): Norman Mailer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio, 2007
Reviewed by Bob Lane, M.A.
(Volume 11, Number 29)
What is Evil? What is it that produces an Adolph Hitler?
Hannah Arendt famously wrote of “the banality of evil” suggesting, perhaps, that the propensity for evil lies in the heart of each of us. The source of evil, say some, is in our genes. Others argue it is in our culture. In reality we are clueless. Mailer attempts to solve the dilemma fictionally by introducing personified Evil in the form of Satan, aka The Maestro. When we first meet the narrator, Dieter or D.T., he’s an S.S. officer serving under Heinrich Himmler (who we are told is obsessed with the study of incest) just as the Second World War is ending. He reveals that he is, in reality, a minor bureaucrat in hell. Dieter’s assignment has been the Hitlers, and he takes us back to the mid-19th century to share his inside information on how Adolf Hitler came to be Adolf Hitler.