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    Hannah Arendt reconsidered: collaboration and the banality of evil in Jonathan Littell's "The Kindly Ones"

    Catani, Damian (2014) Hannah Arendt reconsidered: collaboration and the banality of evil in Jonathan Littell's "The Kindly Ones". Sociology Study 4 (8), pp. 661-672. ISSN 2159‐5526.

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    Hannah Arendt’s 1963 study “Eichmann in Jerusalem”, based on the former Nazi’s 1961 trial, broached two highly controversial topics: The first was her theory of the banality of evil—the uncomfortable moral scenario that leads ordinary individuals, for the most trivial and arbitrary reasons, to commit heinous atrocities; and the second was her fierce condemnation of Jewish collaboration with the Nazis. This paper argues that the novelist Jonathan Littell’s critically acclaimed best‐seller The Kindly Ones (2010) provocatively revalorizes and builds upon these two aspects of Arendt’s study: Firstly, it posits her theory of banality as a challenge to the comforting presupposition that terrible evils can only be committed by a minority of monstrous individuals, by suggesting instead that “normal” readers share the same capacity to commit atrocities as Nazis such as Eichmann. Secondly, the novel nuances Arendt’s damning indictment of Jewish collaboration by regarding it as the inevitable consequence of the terrible predicament faced by Jews at that time. Finally, the paper concludes with Littell’s consideration of banality as a phenomenon that not only invites an uncomfortable moral self‐analysis, but also legitimises a return to a justice system based on the ancient Greek model.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Banality, Arendt, Littell, collaboration, justice
    School: School of Arts > Cultures and Languages (to 2020)
    Research Centres and Institutes: Aesthetics of Kinship and Community, Birkbeck Research in (BRAKC)
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2015 15:09
    Last Modified: 21 Jun 2021 14:24


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