The Disappearance of Josef Mengele
A Novel
Part of the Verso Fiction series
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224 pages / August 2022 / 9781788735889
August 2022 / 9781804290507

An extraordinary novel about one of history’s most reviled figures

For three decades, until the day he collapsed in the Brazilian surf in 1979, Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death who performed horrific experiments on the prisoners of Auschwitz, floated through South America in linen suits, keeping two steps ahead of Mossad agents, international police and the world’s journalists. In this rigorously researched factual novel—drawn almost entirely from historical documents—Olivier Guez traces Mengele’s footsteps through these years of flight. This chilling novel situates the reader in a literary manhunt on the trail of one of the most elusive and evil figures of the twentieth century.


“The book - almost all documented, bar some imagined dialogue and internal monologues - brings us as close to Mengele's mind as is feasible. It illuminates the nadir of the European century, and also what Guez calls the "Nazi society" of postwar Latin America. The book deserves to be read worldwide.”

“Fully human, completely inhuman, this novelisation of Mengele allows the realisation of what seems to be the goal of the work of Olivier Guez across all fields: a confrontation with the concrete reality of absolute horror. History, through the novel, experiences itself, crystallizes in life; it radiates it with its black light, which one would like to keep away from oneself...A novel of shocking intensity”

“A fantastic new novel”

“Guez has been praised in the French press for his meticulous research, and rightly so...The Disappearance of Josef Mengele is not really about remembering the horrors of Nazi atrocities. It is, rather, about the quotidian but crucial work of understanding the tenacious allure of Nazism to an ambitious, self-deluded man with few defenses against it...Guez means to 'keep us on our guard' against the Mengeles of the world, those susceptible, malleable, advantage seekers who will always be among us.”

The Disappearance of Josef Mengele is a phenomenal novel. Prose is spare and straightforward; the narrative is rooted in fact with occasional forays into Mengele's state of mind. The result is a no-holds-barred reconstruction of events, an insightful portrayal of a man on the run, and a potent warning: 'Every two or three generations, as memory fades and the last witnesses of past massacres disappear, reason is eclipsed and men return to propagate evil.' ”

“Historical fiction fans looking for something with an edge shouldn't miss The Disappearance of Josef Mengele. The painstaking research that went into its writing never shows on the page; this chilling fictionalized manhunt for the so-called Angel of Death during his years on the run in South America moves like a thriller but has the keen insight of biography. ”

“Novels almost by definition demand a degree of imaginative empathy from the reader; Guez ensures this never happens while producing a gripping portrait of a hunted, desperate man, reminding readers that unimaginable atrocities are the work not of monsters but of pitifully ordinary mortals. ”

“A chilling tale; one that is impossible to forget.”

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