Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Death of the Adversary by Han Keilson 1959

I am happy to be once again participating in German Literature Month.
.  In the link below you will find lots of great reading ideas.  Caroline and Lizzy's only real rule is the work must be originally written in German.

So far I have read and posted on these works, all but Kafka are new to me writers. 
The Tin Drum-by Gunther Grass
"The Judgement" by Franz Kafka
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque -very powerful war novel 
"A Letter from an Unknown Woman" by Stefan Zweig. 
I hope to read, among others
The Death of Virgil by Herman Broch
Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald.
Chess Game by Stefan  Zweig

Caroline will be leading a discussion on her blog on November 29 on The Death of The Adversary.  I am looking forward to learning from it and will keep just to brief remarks here.  This is a brilliant novel by another new to me writer, I confess I had not heard of him until a few days ago.  

I knew from the notes in Amazon that it was set in Germany during the period of its take over by the Nazis.   The story begins with the first person narrator talking about B, about how he hates him, about the strangely hypnotic power of his radio addresses, his masterful ability to bring out the worst in people. The narrator reflects on his relationship to his adversary.   We are given to see he is Jewish and gradually at first he is excluded from things, the only job he can get is packing purchases at a department store.  He senses the growing fear of his parents.  In one heart breaking segment the father packs a ruck sack in case he will be taken away.  There is a long amazing view of the "banality of evil" depicting the horrible trashing at night of a Jewish cemetery by a few Nazi youths.  They tell the story to the narrator who is trying to hide his background and blend in.  It is an amazing set piece.

Hans Keilson is the author of Comedy in a Minor Key and The Death of the Adversary. Born in Germany in 1909, he published his first novel in 1933. During World War II he joined the Dutch resistance. Later, as a psychotherapist, he pioneered the treatment of war trauma in children. In a 2010 New York Times review, Francine Prose called Keilson a “genius” and “one of the world’s very greatest writers.” He died in 2011 at the age of 101.

Death of an Adversary is an over powering work.  I will seek out more of his work.


Anna said...

I hope to have time to read this for Caroline's discussion. It sounds really good. Great review!

Mel u said...

Anna, I hope you do get a change to read it. It is an amazing book.

Caroline said...

Thanks for writing about the readalong, Mel. I haven't started yet but have high hopes. Most people who read Keilson so far were enthusiastic.