"Comedy in a Minor Key" and
"Death of an Adversary"
Recently, Farrar Straus and Giroux re-issued a
pair of novels by a Jewish physician who is more than a century old.
He was born in Berlin 1909, escaped to Holland in 1936, served in
the Dutch resistance, and after the war became a
physician/psychoanalyst specializing in the treatment of
war-traumatized children. Today he lives outside of Amsterdam with
his wife and continues his medical practice. The re-released novels
are set during the time of the Third Reich; their subject is the
persecution and murder of Jews. They are brief and compressed. Yet
lacking so much as a single scene of overt violence, their impact is
Comedy in a Minor Key, originally published in 1947, tells the story
of a Dutch couple who are providing sanctuary to a middle-aged
Jewish perfume salesman. When he suddenly falls ill and dies, a
neighborhood doctor helps dispose of the body in a nearby park. Soon
afterwards the couple realize a laundry mark on a shirt left on the
corpse will point to them, and they go into hiding themselves until
the danger of discovery is past and they can return to their normal
lives. This is a tale told in utter simplicity against an orderly
and spare Dutch lifestyle where the details of ordinary domesticity
provide a jarring contrast to the dangers and brutality of life
during the Occupation. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Death of an Adversary, which appeared twelve years
later, begins with an unidentified narrator receiving a manuscript
from an attorney after the war. It contains a first-person account
of an individual's connection to Hitler, known only as "the enemy,"
one that begins when he is a child and the dictator a vague but
disturbing presence. Slowly he grows into a real and dangerous
presence that ultimately directs the movements of the boy's parents
and himself. A strange account, all the more horrific for being
twice removed from the reader, it is an intense, painful
psychological journey of a Jewish boy growing up during the time of
the Third Reich. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
# # #
About the Authors: Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband
team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional
scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories
It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in
America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in
Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.
They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining
as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United
States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
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