Over the course of his 60-year career, Norman Mailer has tackled some pretty controversial subjects—the life of Jesus Christ, the inner workings of the CIA, the final days of murderer Gary Gilmore—as part of an ongoing effort to understand the nature of good and evil. In his latest novel, The Castle in the Forest, he imagines the early life of the 20th century’s foremost representative of evil, Adolf Hitler, as narrated by one of Satan’s minions.
At 84, Mailer is as passionate and contrary as ever. He speaks with Nextbook about his interest in Hitler—which dates back to 1932, when he was but 9 years old—and about the drawbacks of our post-Enlightenment world view, which precludes a belief in the devil. He also traces his lineage as a writer and thinker, with nods to his butcher-scholar grandfather and E. M. Forster, among others. [Editor’s note: The introduction to this podcast was updated to acknowledge Mailer’s death in November, 2007.]