Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson
A Novel

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Synopsis

A penetrating study of ordinary people resisting the Nazi occupation—and, true to its title, a dark comedy of wartime manners—Comedy in a Minor Key tells the story of Wim and Marie, a Dutch couple who first hide a Jew they know as Nico, then must dispose of his body when he dies of pneumonia. This novella, first published in 1947 and now translated into English for the first time, shows Hans Keilson at his best: deeply ironic, penetrating, sympathetic, and brilliantly modern, an heir to Joseph Roth and Franz Kafka. In 2008, when Keilson received Germany’s prestigious Welt Literature Prize, the citation praised his work for exploring “the destructive impulse at work in the twentieth century, down to its deepest psychological and spiritual ramifications.”

Published to celebrate Keilson’s hundredth birthday, Comedy in a Minor Key—and The Death of the Adversary, reissued in paperback—will introduce American readers to a forgotten classic author, a witness to World War II and a sophisticated storyteller whose books remain as fresh as when they first came to light.


 

About Hans Keilson

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Hans Keilson is the author of Comedy in a Minor Key. 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.
 
Published July 14, 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 143 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Comedy in a Minor Key

Kirkus Reviews

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The dynamic among them shifts subtly over the year that he spends with them: “It stood like a wall between him and them, which slowly, slowly crumbled as the war dragged on and everything out of the ordinary and inhuman became typical and everyday.” One of the things that changes is the state of ...

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The New York Times

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For busy, harried or distractible readers who have the time and energy only to skim the opening paragraph of a review, I’ll say this as quickly and clearly as possible: “The Death of the Adversary” and “Comedy in a Minor Key” are masterpieces, and Hans Keilson is a genius.

Aug 05 2010 | Read Full Review of Comedy in a Minor Key: A Novel

The Globe and Mail

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Hans Keilson's Second World War novella is marvellous in its juxtaposition of the banal and the monstrous

Sep 03 2010 | Read Full Review of Comedy in a Minor Key: A Novel

Los Angeles Times

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The story is amazing: Hans Keilson, born in 1909, is a German Jew who, during World War II, became a member of the Dutch resistance, then a novelist and psychiatrist specializing in the war trauma of children, and is still living, at almost 101, near Amsterdam.

Sep 26 2010 | Read Full Review of Comedy in a Minor Key: A Novel

Review (Barnes & Noble)

And Marie understood that words like "love of your neighbor" or "national duty" or "civil disobedience" were only a weak reflection of this deepest feeling that Wim and she had felt back then: wanting to shelter a persecuted human being in their house.

Aug 11 2010 | Read Full Review of Comedy in a Minor Key: A Novel

MostlyFiction Book Reviews

Day after day, Nico anticipates the moment when Marie can deliver the daily paper upstairs.

Dec 16 2010 | Read Full Review of Comedy in a Minor Key: A Novel

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Jul 05 2011 | Read Full Review of Comedy in a Minor Key: A Novel

The Jewish Chronicle

It is a betrayal of confidence, a secret he had dared to keep from those who had been sharing a secret of so much greater import, and the prism through which she finally becomes aware of "the spark in him, the splinter of the great fire that burns in the world and that we call Life."

Apr 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Comedy in a Minor Key: A Novel

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