The Castle in the Forest


Mailer never rests on his laurels and never fails to shock and surprise. In this novel, the 84-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner describes the family that he imagined sired Adolf Hitler. He tells his tale through the words of a satanic angel who was assigned by the Devil to nourish the sociopathic seeds planted in the infant Hitler by the incestuous mating of his parents.

The story is more about where Hitler came from than about Hitler himself. That place, according to Mailer’s imagination, was a home despoiled by incest, adultery, child abuse, animal cruelty, drunkenness, premature toilet training and peasant self-loathing. However, Mailer does not believe this is enough corruption to produce a man as evil as Hitler. He adds the personal attention of the Devil himself, who assigns an underling to monitor and encourage Hitler’s taste for megalomania and mass murder.

This story begins three generations before Adolf’s birth and ends when he is 16 or 17. Hitler’s father, Alois, emerges as the main character of the story. Although more successful than many of his peasant contemporaries, he’s the type of brutish man from whom you would expect a dysfunctional family. Yet Mailer needed more than Alois to explain an evil as powerful as Adolf Hitler, so he adds direct intervention from the Devil. It’s up to the reader to decide if the Devil made him do it.

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