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The Naked and the Dead: 50th Anniversary Edition Paperback – August 5, 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 166 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This 50th-anniversary edition of Mailer's World War II epic contains a new introduction by the author. If your current copy is falling apart, now is the time to replace it.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“The best novel to come out of the . . . war, perhaps the best book to come out of any war.” ―San Francisco Chronicle

“Best novel yet about World War II.” ―Time

“Brutal, agonizing, astonishingly thoughtful.” ―Newsweek

“Nightmarish masterpiece of realism.” ―Cleveland News

“Vibrant with life, abundant with real people, full of memorable scenes. To call it merely a great book about the war would be to minimize its total achievement.” ―The Philadelphia Inquirer

“The most important American novel since Moby-Dick.” ―Providence Journal


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 5 Anv edition (August 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312265050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312265052
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Earlier this year I decided to improve the quality of the books I was reading - or, at least, to mix more "good" books in with the easy reading. The Naked and the Dead was the first of these - and what a good choice it was.
Norman Mailer writes with a clarity that is often missing from other good novelists. He develops very strong characters and focusses closely on the interactions between them and their environment. Don't expect an action-packed story: The tales here are the soldier's lives and the lack of action is part of war which seems to be very realistically reconstructed.
The story, for what it's worth, follows a band of recon soldiers on an island in the Pacific during World War II. The book opens with the initial assault on the Japanese-held island; it finishes with the quick and anti-climatic (deliberately so) mopping up of the last troups. In between we follow the soldiers' progress through the jungle, go with them on a desperate recon. mission, and learn about their lives through a series of personal flashbacks.
We also see a full range of characters - at all levels in the army - and see their private and semi-private battles with authority. Often the authority in question is an over-demanding or idiotic superior; just as often it is an insolant, stubborn inferior. It is this interplay between the ranks that makes this novel stand out.
The book seems long, but it really is a page turner up with the best of them. At the end of it, you'll be able to say you really enjoyed a work of great fiction.
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Format: Paperback
There must have been a glut of war novels published in the wake of World War II, so it's indicative of the high quality of Norman Mailer's "The Naked and the Dead" that its popularity and acclaim have survived when so many others have been forgotten. What makes it so powerful is its uncompromising depiction of brutal front-line combat in scenes so well written that it's easy to forgive the book for its occasionally banal dialogue.
The setting is a fictitious South Pacific island called Anopopei which is held by the Japanese. The U.S. Army has launched a campaign to take command of the island by landing six thousand troops there to confront the defensive line established by the opposing Japanese General Toyaku. Because this is fictional, I assume that the island is supposed to be a desirable strategic position because the purpose of the mission in relation to the real war is never clearly explained. In charge of the invasion is a Machiavellian General named Cummings who thinks soldiers are motivated best by fear. To defeat Toyaku's line, Cummings devises a plan tailored to the island's particular geography and assigns a reconnaissance squad to the dangerous mission, putting his rebellious and idealistic aide, Lieutenant Hearn, in charge. What the men find out is that the island's natural environment is a more formidable enemy than the Japanese could ever be.
The story focuses mainly on the dozen or so men in the reconnaissance squad. Their personal backgrounds vary greatly, although their personalities don't differ so much that it's easy to tell them apart except by name. The two that stand out the most are Roth and Goldstein, two Jewish soldiers who are made to feel like outcasts due to casual anti-semitism in the squad.
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Format: Paperback
I bought the book based on size and reputation. I read nothing from Mailer prior to this book, and I needed something to occupy several hours of travel in Europe. Over 800 pages of prose would do the trick.
I ended up reading the book in the hotel, four hours at a stretch. I was fascinated by it, particularly in seeing so many familiar literary devices originate with this novel. The backstories of the characters were excellent, and I found it to be a compact way of developing the characters and explaining their motivations.
What I particularly liked was the writing style, and the Lieutenant-General struggle was perhaps the real soul of the book. The self-awareness of each competitor, and the misconception of what each was trying to accomplish, was a microcosm of each struggle throughout the book. Every point of conflict was sharply defined through a misunderstanding, a lack of communication, a little misstep here or there, compounding to some surprising and gut wrenching conclusions.
Because the ending was frustrating to me, I found it completely believable and realistic. I can see someone stumbling into a victory; I can see our hero dying due to betrayal; and I can see the flawed, vaguely malignant leader emerge largely unscathed from the chaos.
...I can understand the reservations of some reviewers, but only in an abstract, "right to your opinion" sort of way. For me, this was a 4.5 on a 5-star scale. The only reservation was the self-censoring of certain words and phrases to pass editorial review, something I feel should not be an author's consideration when writing. I can forgive this weakness in a 25 year old Norman Mailer, however. He's certainly earned it.
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Format: Paperback
Writing must come naturally to Norman Mailer. While this is his very first book, it suffers from none of the usual rookie mistakes and stands up to the very best works in Mailer's oeuvre. I dare say that very few 20th century novelists would not trade in the sum total of their work to have written this one masterpiece.
"The Naked and the Dead" delves deep into the heart of war as it exists in modern times, sparing us the sentimentalism and glorification that plagues most books of the war genre. I would be belittling this book's significance by even assigning it to a specific genre. True, this is a story of war, of the implications of war, the causes of war, and the impact that war has on various types of individuals, from the generals down to a platoon of privates. But first and foremost this is a story about human nature, and how human beings react when pushed to the very edge of their physical and emotional endurance.
While I could go on indefinately listing this book's many favorable attributes, I will spare you my opinions and let you decide for yourself. But do read this book. Do not be put-off by its length, for anything shorter would have done a great injustice to the subject matter.
Norman Mailer, may you live to be 1,000 years old.
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