Saturday, June 04, 2011

Literary Greatness Recognized

From one of my favorite writers, William Grimes of The New York Times, comes a poignant and important obituary of novelist and psychoanalyst Hans Keilson. It begins:
Hans Keilson, a German-born psychoanalyst who won literary fame at the very end of his long life when two of his long-forgotten works of fiction, set in Nazi-occupied Europe, were republished to great acclaim, died on Tuesday in Hilversum, the Netherlands. He was 101.

His death was announced by his longtime German publisher, S. Fischer Verlag.

Dr. Keilson, a physician by training, published his first novel at 23. That book, “Life Goes On,” offered a dark picture of German political life between the wars, reflected in the troubles encountered by Max, a Jewish store owner modeled on Dr. Keilson’s father, a textile merchant. It was banned by the Nazis in 1934.

Two years later Dr. Keilson emigrated to the Netherlands with his future wife, Gertrud Manz. He began a new novel, “The Death of the Adversary,” about a young Jewish man’s experiences in Germany as the Nazis gain a grip on power, but he put the manuscript aside after the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1940 forced him to live in hiding in Delft.

His experiences provided the material for the novella “Comedy in a Minor Key,” about a Dutch couple who shelter an elderly Jew who dies of natural causes. After disposing of the body carelessly, they too must go into hiding.
You will find Grimes’ full piece here.

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