In this obsidian gemstone of a book, the novelist and film-maker Éric Vuillard uses such details—moments of farce, historical flotsam—to conduct a powerful argument against the inevitability of history ... In Mark Polizzotti’s translation, the prose has an aphoristic gleam ... And [Vuillard] is brilliant on the authoritarian’s relationship to the law, when describing how Hitler insisted that the Austrian president must accept his chancellor’s resignation ... However you decide to categorize it, this is a thoroughly gripping and mesmerizing work of black comedy and political disaster.
The result of painstaking research, [The Order of the Day] is related to 'fiction' in the sense that real historical events are arranged and narrated in ways that are somewhat similar to the suspenseful, dramatic storytelling techniques of traditional historical novels. By highlighting certain interrelated actions and individuals, Éric Vuillard provides a fresh, multifaceted reexamination of a seemingly well-known moment of twentieth-century history.
The method of this unusual work...is to peel away the veils of dissimulation, disguise and self-justification that conspire to make historical disasters appear as just the way things happen. While The Order of the Day has the rhythm and tenor of fiction, it is really a historical essay ... the author utilizes mundane facts or events, converting them by literary alchemy into gleaming pieces of a puzzle. From time to time, the author’s own voice breaks through, warning the reader against being duped ... The Vuillard tone, ironic, persistent, aggressive—at times merciless—is well caught in English by the translator Mark Polizzotti ... Mr. Vuillard has relied on a range of firsthand accounts of the events in question, and some readers might have welcomed a few source notes. But history as recitation—a tale told in a singular voice—can probably do without them.