Oswald’s Tale, An American Mystery, Norman Mailer, 1995

Published in 1995, Oswald’s Tale is Norman Mailer’s twenty eighth book. Mailer already distinguished himself with The Executioner’s song (talking about it, give me a few weeks and we’ll talk about it too ! I feel the urge to re-read it) which won the Pulitzer prize in 1968.

As far as I’m concerned I’ve never been fascinated by the assassination of J.F.K. Of course, it is a major historic event and I’ve heard all sorts of theories about who committed it or commissioned it and to the extend of my knowledge Willy Wonka could have ordered it. Anyway, the desire to read Oswald’s Tale came from several things :

  1. I just finished 11/22/63 by Stephen King who mentions Mailer has one of his sources.

  2. The Executioner’s song is one of my favourite books

  3. And finally, FATE! My better half found the book in a second hand shop the very next day I talked to him about it. It was a sign so here we’re go….

Oswald’s Tale is more than ‘just another book’ about Kennedy’s assassination. Mailer draws up the portrait of this very young man, this boy, who desperately wanted to be someone. From his defection to Russia to his return to the USA and finally to that fatal day, Mailer examines every aspects of Oswald’s life.

The first volume, the Russian part, of the book is constituted by interviews of people who met Oswald, friends, co-workers, neighbours, family (after his marriage with Marina), by transcripts of KGB and interviews with those KGB agents who investigated on Oswald. Mailer also ponders about memories, how they are affected by time and environment or the conscious or unconscious wish to have a minute of glory.

The second volume deals with the return to the USA. Mailer uses mostly the interviews from the Warren commission and Marina’s biography by Priscilla McMillan. Mailer depicts Oswald’s childhood; his relationship with his mother and brothers, his life after he came back from Russia.

. Norman and I still have a few steps to take together so epilogue of this review in the next episod!


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