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Comedy in a Minor Key: A Novel by Hans…

Comedy in a Minor Key: A Novel (original 1947; edition 2011)

by Hans Keilson, Damion Searls (Translator)

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5152837,207 (3.77)72
Traces the struggles of a Dutch couple who shelter a Jewish man during the Nazi occupation and dispose of his body when he dies of pneumonia.
Title:Comedy in a Minor Key: A Novel
Authors:Hans Keilson
Other authors:Damion Searls (Translator)
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 144 pages
Collections:Your library

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Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson (1947)


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» See also 72 mentions

English (21)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  Basque (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Een Nederlands echtpaar laat een jood tijdens WOII bij zich onderduiken. Als de man aan een ziekte sterft, leggen ze het lijk, gekleed in een pyjama van de echtgenoot, in een nabijgelegen park. Doordat ze vergeten zijn de wasserijnummers uit de pyjama te knippen, lopen ze zelf gevaar en moeten ze halsoverkop onderduiken. Ze ervaren nu aan den lijve wat dat betekent. ( )
  joucy | Apr 19, 2017 |
The couple in this story are ordinary people, not energetic resistance fighters. This little book will help you experience the tension and the fear and adjustments in living associated with sheltering a Jewish refugee in your home in occupied Europe during the Second World War. ( )
  jack2410 | Feb 2, 2017 |
I really enjoyed this book. Since I don't usually write reviews, this in itself should show how much I loved it. Wim and Marie live in occupied Holland, and the only way they can resist the new, harsh regime is to allow Nico, a Jew, to hide in their house. When Nico dies, they have to figure out how to get rid of his body. But this short novella is so much more than that. It moves along smoothly between present and past; a few times it takes a few lines to realize that a jump has been made, but the transitions are mostly smooth. Certain passages are absolutely beautiful, and I wanted to read them over and over again.
I easily read the book in two sittings. It's one of the best books I've read this year. It's short; it's simple; it's there. ( )
1 vote hylandk | Nov 2, 2016 |

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.

A short 1947 book read back in March for Past Offences Crimes of the Century meme………oops a tad late posting then.

Secrecy and a sense of claustrophia prevails as Wim and Marie hide Nico upstairs in their house. No telling Wim’s sister, the cleaning lady, the fishmonger who cleans the fish every week in the kitchen, no telling the neighbours. “Good people” or not someone will gossip. Jop had been caught three days ago – he was careless, he had been betrayed. Who knew which?

Nico stays in the room. A trip to the bathroom every hour and a half. No looking out the window, no turning on the light. No sneaking down the stairs in the afternoon when the paper is delivered. We’ll have to wait for Marie to bring it to us when she returns.

Marie gives Nico the news regarding Jop……..

She had seen fear: the terrible helpless fear that rises up out of sadness and despair and is no longer attached to anything – the helpless fear that is tied only to nothingness. Not fear or anxiety or despair about a person or a situation, nothing, nothing, only the exposure, the vulnerability, being cast loose from all certainties, from all dignity and all love. The man offered it up to her so shamelessly that it felt to Marie like she was seeing him physically naked. No cry out loud, no contortion of his face or his hands, he was simply uncovered, he stood in the middle of the room, the focal point and the bull’s-eye for all the poisoned arrows shot at him from beyond life.

On cleaning day…….

He heard the women’s footsteps stomping heavily through the house, heard how she carried the laundry into the bedroom, how she moved around with the vacuum cleaner and carried out her other duties. The nearness of another human being, even one who he knew harboured no suspicions, stirred up the tense quiet and solitude of his room.

A few months later……..

Once in mid-October…..when the cleaning lady was in the house, Nico heard someone slowly coming up the stairs at around four o’clock.

Marie with the tea, he thought, and stood up. Why is she taking such deliberate steps? Maybe she’s carrying her tea, or some laundry?... He crept to the door and waited. The steps came closer………right up to his door. There was something tense inside him. It’s Marie, I’ll take the tray from her. He carefully opened the door.

Before him stood the cleaning lady…breathing heavily…….Her pains were back………..She held the laundry bag pressed tight against her chest and looked with astonished eyes, at the man who suddenly stood there in the doorframe turning dead white.

It’s all over, Nico thought. He understood that he had done something stupid that could never be made right again. He staggered and shut his eyes……… When he opened his eyes again, the woman still stood two steps away from him in the hallway. Her suffering face now wore an understanding smile, which also made it possible to see the gaps in her teeth. Nico put the index finger of his right hand to his mouth, nodded slowly and sadly at her with his contorted face, and gently shut the door……

Nico lay with sweat on his bed, as though paralysed, his face covered with both hands. He no longer knew if the encounter had been real or just a dream. His head ached.

Life (but not as we know it) continues…….. until Nico falls ill and dies and his Dutch hosts have the problem of disposing of his body in the German-occupied city.

Enjoyable, interesting, educational and a reminder of both man’s humanity and inhumanity at the same time.

4 from 5

Hans Keilson died in 2011. Read about him and his life – Wikipedia and his Guardian obituary.

Referred to as a “genius” and “the greatest novelist you’ve never heard of” – I’ve spotlighted him on the blog before……. 2 BY HANS KEILSON.

Well worth hunting down at least one of his books, in my opinion.

Bought copy. Read in March, 2016.
https://col2910.blogspot.co.uk/2016/0... ( )
  col2910 | Jun 17, 2016 |
This is a fine little book. A young married couple in netherlands takes in a jewish man during the war. He unexpectedly dies. The book goes back and forth in time. Including the possibility for a time that the dead man's body, left in the park, with it's laundry tags, may implicate the young couple. For a time they to must go into hiding. Listened as an audibook. ( )
  idiotgirl | Dec 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Comedy in a Minor Key" is very much about these issues: the endurance of life in a universe of death....The existential questions, forms the substance of this delicately balanced novel, a book of such profound and understated beauty that it almost seems to function as a parable...But in some sense, "Comedy in a Minor Key" is a testament to the power of consolation in an inconsolable situation, not to make things better but to allow us to see them as they are.
As you might expect from a book titled Comedy in a Minor Key, Hans Keilson’s novella – it’s 136 pages long – is a tonally eccentric work. It’s a mixture of grief, hope, fear and, if such a thing is possible, dry slapstick. ...I think Comedy in a Minor Key is one of the best short novels I’ve ever read...For me, the work’s chief accomplishment, aside from the quickness and subtlety of Keilson’s characterizations, is in its juxtaposition of the day-to-day (the banal) against the historically monstrous (the Second World War, the ruthless hunt for the Jews)..Comedy in a Minor Key is the work of a consummate artist, a wonderful writer. And the most striking thing about it may well be that it has taken so long for such exceptional work to be translated into English.
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.

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hans Keilsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Agirre, Juan LuisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Andreu, CarlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dahl, SverreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sanders, H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuitemaker, FrankTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Searls, DamionTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Traces the struggles of a Dutch couple who shelter a Jewish man during the Nazi occupation and dispose of his body when he dies of pneumonia.

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Penguin Australia

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