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In de ban van de tegenstander by Hans…
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In de ban van de tegenstander (1959)

by Hans Keilson, M.G. Schenk

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270942,050 (3.85)18
Member:heleenvan
Title:In de ban van de tegenstander
Authors:Hans Keilson
Other authors:M.G. Schenk
Info:Haarlem : De Haan; 219 p, 21 cm; http://opc4.kb.nl/DB=1/PPN?PPN=821490184
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The Death of the Adversary by Hans Keilson (1959)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Done.

Life's too short to read Socratic dialogues disguised as psychological first-person narratives, wherein said first-person has total recall about every conversation he's ever had.
  KidSisyphus | Apr 5, 2013 |
Spoilers.

I read a rave review of Keilson. Maybe it is just Francine Prose? I haven't looked at his other book which is even shorter. This is a short book. I am happy to admit that Keilson is a good writer. But I didn't find myself loving the book.

It is written obliquely, the words Hitler and Jew are never written, as it tells the story of the narrator as a psychological study of a Jew who didn't get it. A very assimilated Jew. The other reviewers probably understand it much better than I do. Is it that he feels that he is as important to Hitler as Hitler is to him, that he as Jew is the necessary balance to Hitler as anti-Jew. And doesn't believe that Hitler will upset the balance by doing what he always said he would do if he could?
  franoscar | Jan 5, 2013 |
This may be the most enjoyable experience reading fiction that I have had in the last year - and also one of the most profound and unexpected. My attention was piqued in June when I heard of Keilson's death at the age of 101; I knew he was considered to be a good author, yet I never read him. Having long had a penchant for the bleak, searching quality of twentieth-century Dutch fiction, particularly Willem Frederik Hermans, Harry Mulisch, and Gerard Reve, I decided to read this.

However stunning Keilson's novels are - and I hope to communicate that momentarily - he is even better known for other work. For many decades, he worked in child psychology and psychiatry, with an especial focus on children severely traumatized by World War II. His keen insight into human nature, thought processes, and motivation is on par with the world's greatest novelists, and that is no hyperbole. As if his psychological and psychiatric training were not inducements enough to read his work, the horrors of the War were not pure theory for him. Both of his parents perished in Auschwitz.

The novel's setting is 1930s Germany. We follow an unnamed narrator in childhood; we get hints of his precociousness and impishness through learning of both his penchant for forging stamps, and also through a sustained theory of the history of struggle that he presents and continuously develops throughout the novel. As a boy, he acquires a lifelong fascination with an adversary who is almost always unnamed, but sometimes goes by simply "B." Some reviews have been only too eager to guess at the existence of "B," seeing as how we are in 1930s Germany. However, I personally think Keilson might have a good reason for keeping the adversary anonymous; using one name would collapse the entire structure of the novel into a kind of singularity; keeping the adversary nameless (even though we still may continue to guess, and guess accurately), Keilson keeps the narrative at a level of constant psychological, humanistic portraiture, instead of the story of a single couple locked in interminable battle.

As the novel progresses and the narrator grows into manhood, we learn that he has a friend who is utterly taken with "B" and his ideas; another time, we see him spending an afternoon with a girl that he knows and fancies from his workplace whose friends turn out to be sympathetic to fascism, too. Instead of simplistic moralism, Keilson intelligently and deftly engages with the adversary on a human level, at one point realizing the nihilism inherent in the logic of "I want to kill him just as badly as he wants to kill me."

Narratively speaking, Keilson's biggest gift is to mix tone and message in such unique and telling ways. On hearing that a novel is set during World War II, one is almost preconditioned to expect the trials and tribulations of the oppressor against the oppressed and hiding in safe houses; it is assumed that we will root for the good, the just, the persecuted, and that evil, in the end, will be vanquished. Keilson presented us with nothing so sugar-coated. His efforts at characterization drive toward showing the similarities between himself and B, not the vast differences. He is not interested in showing you how morally superior he is (we already know that), but instead wants to show how existentially, a word applied perhaps too liberally to this novel, he and "B" are similarly situated.

Keilson's search feels so liberating, instead of the moral burden that seem to come with reading so many novels of the Holocaust. As much as I have read Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi, I found Keilson to be better than both of them. Unfortunately, he is not well known in the United States, but he should be. I should also add here that Ivo Jarosy's translation from the German is luminous, especially in its ability to capture dialogue. I would recommend "The Death of the Adversary" for anyone in search of a great novel that, like all great novels, is more eager to share questions than answers. ( )
  kant1066 | Oct 14, 2011 |
Through the eyes of a young man in the Germany of the 1930s, Keilson provides the reader with an inspiring look into how Nazi Germany came to be, and also how those in Europe fought to overthrow the horror that was Adolf Hitler. One individual's life as he tries to find logic in all situations, even if it logically does not exist and his fight to keep back the darkness of himself.
  SalemAthenaeum | Jun 23, 2011 |
Just as Hitler used the Jews as an alien other around which to build up himself and Germany, so the narrator here uses Hitler as the enabling and empowering adversary which gives his life meaning. But were not the Shoah so close to us in time, the reader might not connect the story told here with it. The story could conceivably stand in for virtually any conflict among the Judeo-Christian hoards. For the tale has been universalized and removed from it have been all identifying labels of time, place. The narrator is unnamed, as is his adversary, referred to simply as B. The word Jew never appears. All the politics, all the old tired rhetoric of the period have been removed. I found it interesting in spots, yet due to a lack of concrete detail it tends--awkwardly in my view--toward the abstract and philosophical. I have tried to press on but in the end could not finish the novel. Its arguments are just too oblique, too impalpable to satisfy. Alas, I am not sure what got Francine Prose so excited that she praised the book as a "masterpiece" in the New York Times. (See "As Darkness Falls," NYT, August 5, 2010.) Go figure. ( )
2 vote Brasidas | Feb 25, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hans Keilsonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carbonaro, MargheritaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schenk, M.G.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuitemaker, FrankTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
וולק, ארזTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The papers published in this volume were given to me some time after the war by a Dutch lawyer in Amsterdam.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A young man is helplessly fascinated by an unnamed adversary-- whom he once had a chance to kill. As he watches the man rise to power in 1930s Germany, we follow the hero's desperate attempt to discover logic where none exists.

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