Comedy in a Minor Key: A Novel
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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.
him. It’s Marie, I’ll take the tray from her. He carefully opened the door. Before him stood the cleaning woman. She was carrying a laundry bag and breathing heavily. Her gray hair was disheveled from working and it hung down to one side and over her forehead into her yellowish gray, slightly puffy face. Her pains were back, and while she was climbing the stairs with the load of laundry, bending forward to put pressure on the stabbing pains in her body, her thoughts had drifted to the wrong
secret had been left behind, as one last thing. At first it seemed to her that she, tears in her eyes and alone in his room, had discovered it, as though the fog had suddenly lifted and the other riverbank had come closer, right up next to her, so that she could see it precisely and know everything about it: its slope, its bushes and shrubs and hollows. Yet the more she looked, the more it rose like mist from the water, enveloping everything. Marie was frightened when she realized that a secret
so much out of fear that when they found him someone might come here, where he had hidden, nor from a desire to remove all his traces, as out of a secret wish to have him near her again. The men carried the body; she too could carry something—his things, what he had lived with. She had always taken care to keep his room so that, if necessary, just a quick tidying up would make it look uninhabited. His suits and coat stayed in Wim’s closet; his clothes, writing implements, papers, and toiletries
secret too. But now it seemed different to her, as though she herself had entered into this secret in a new way. And she remembered having seen, every once in a while, a flitting in his eyes as though dogs were hounding him. When she walked up to the closed window and looked steeply down into the little back garden, she was overcome by a kind of vertigo. She leaned her forehead against the glass to feel some support. It started in her eyes, a strange, particular turning and pulling that
days, too long for the two people in the room on the fourth floor. Gradually Wim stopped taking pleasure in his reading. They went downstairs together and walked around the city, tense and worried. Maybe they would run into someone they knew from their town who would know why they were here. But everything went off without a hitch. No one was looking for them. The weather stayed cold and stormy. Staying in a heated room, near the stove, was still the most pleasant option they had. Soon Wim too