Comedy in A Minor Key

Comedy in A Minor Key

Book - 2010
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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.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010.
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780374126759
Branch Call Number: KEILSON
Characteristics: 135 pages ; 20 cm
Additional Contributors: Searls, Damion


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Feb 28, 2013

A small, spare, brilliant novel about the everyday life of a couple hiding an elderly jew in their home during the Nazi occupation. The author, a German jew involved in the Dutch resistance in World War Two was a psychoanalyst who world with traumatized children after the war and knows what of he writes. If you like your comedy dark as it comes a terrific book.

Mewsician Oct 31, 2011

I am unclear under what definition of comedy this book assigns itself; I found none. If anything, it might be considered a tragedy. However, it definitely depends on irony as a central pivot point and is not unremittingly depressing. That said, the storytelling is meticulous and uses challenging techniques to great effect. Of the many holocaust books, this one places its ostensible non-victims and, by identification its readers, in a position to grasp what it is like to be one of the hunted. I'm glad the publishers saw fit to release this English translation 63 years after the original German edition. There is still much for us to learn from that terrible time.

debwalker Jan 24, 2011

A National Book Critics Circle Awards Finalist 2010

"Kelison, who was 100 when he passed away on June 1st, was a Dutch doctor who joined the resistance against the Nazis by providing counseling for children affected by the war. Comedy (one of only two books that he wrote) wasn’t a success when it was originally published in 1947 and became mostly forgotten when it went out of print. Last year, though, an English translation sparked interest in Keilson’s work again, gaining him a National Book Critics Circle Award nomination.

Now, Comedy isn’t a comedy per se, though it’s full of absurdist situations. A good-hearted WWII-era Dutch couple named Wim and Marie hide a Jewish salesman (who they call “Nico”) from the Nazi occupiers. When Nico dies, they’re faced with a quandary about what to do with him, not just to be respectful to their deceased friend but to also evade suspicion for their “crime.” Because they’ve broken Gestapo laws, the couple ultimately land in the same horrible circumstances as Nico, having to hide out in someone else’s home for fear of arrest or execution. As such, Keilson shows how everyone who defies a totalitarian government with acts of humanity and kindness ultimately becomes its victim."

Jan 05, 2011

This book is wonderful. It's a Dutch novel from 1947 and is a serious study of the psychology of people with secrets. But it's also a dark, dark comedy and will make you laugh even though it will make you uncomfortable.

The plot can be summarized as "Wim and Marie hide Nico in their spare bedroom. Nico becomes ill and dies. How do they dispose of the body?"


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