Tales in a Minor Key by Peter Freund

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"Tales in a Minor Key" is a collection of short stories, about twentieth century Central European Jews coping with the trials and aftereffects of the two world wars and of the twin evils of fascism and communism. The narrator of "Dachau Idyll," a Romanian Jew, and her physician husband Gabriel, settle in Dachau after the war and try to pass as Catholics there. Before long, to sustain this lie, they go as far as pretending that Gabriel had served in Africa under Rommel. Living in constant fear of being exposed seriously affects the narrator’s own sense of identity. In “Feeding the Piranhas,” on the pier of Lisbon harbor, after the fall of Berlin, two Romanian Jews who had managed to weather the war in neutral Portugal, buy passage to Brazil for Nazis fleeing Europe. The payment is made in suitcases stuffed with German stocks, which after a thorough laundering in a Zurich bank, establish the two Jews as millionaires, while also leading to severe unintended consequences. The narrator in “The Treasure Hunters’ Burdens” returns to his native Romania after the fall of communism to search for the ring and the manuscript of a nineteenth century ancestor. In this search he is helped by his childhood friends and has to confront some of the agents of the deposed communist regime. In the process, connections between his friends and the communist authorities get revealed and the question of just what qualifies as honorable behavior in a totalitarian society assumes a central role. In “A Stabbing Pain” a physician in Romania is called to attend to a patient who claims to be on the run from the communist secret police, but who may himself be a member of that very police force, sent to entrap the doctor. The physician faces the choice of denouncing his patient to the authorities, or of remaining silent. If however the patient is a police agent, not reporting him, the doctor would be signing his own and his young wife’s arrest warrants. These sad stories deal with deep moral issues, and at the same time are infused with a powerful sense of humor.

About Peter Freund

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Beyond his well-known scientific papers and books, Peter Freund, a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Chicago, has published fiction in literary magazines, "Exquisite Corpse" and "ACM," among others. He is the author of "A Passion for Discovery," a book of general interest about the human side of doing science and of the short story collection "West of West End."A native of Timisoara, Romania, Freund completed his undergraduate studies in his hometown.In his student days he participated in an anti-Soviet demonstration, was arrested and placed before an armored firing squad. They obviously did not fire. A few years later, he managed to leave Romania. After living in Austria and Switzerland, Freund moved to the US. He lives in Chicago.
Published March 31, 2012 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 169 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Freund (West of West End, 2008, etc.) pens a suspenseful collection of short stories about Romanian Jews as they lived before, during and after the Holocaust, bringing to life two-faced converts to Christianity, Swiss money-launderers and voluptuous enchantresses.

Mar 21 2012 | Read Full Review of Tales in a Minor Key

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