The 2 books here could have been 3 as I have Keilson’s The Death of an Adversary also on the shelves. Probably not crime fiction more regarded as literature I suppose, though any rational analysis of the Nazis couldn’t but help classify them and some of the unthinkable acts they perpetrated as criminal.
Keilson wrote his first book in the 30’s, which was banned by the Nazis. He fled to the Netherlands later and was a part of the Dutch resistance during World War II. For more details on a fascinating life check his Wikipedia page here.
He never received much acclaim outside the Netherlands until he celebrated his 100th birthday. Cue international fanfare and trumpets. He died a year later aged 101 in 2011.
In 2010 he was featured in The Guardian and was tagged “the greatest novelist you’ve never heard of.” The following year they were publishing his obituary.
Comedy in a Minor Key
"The Death of the Adversary and Comedy in a Minor Key are masterpieces and Hans Keilson is a genius... Read these books and join me in adding him to the list, which each of us must compose on our own, of the world's greatest writers."
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.
Life Goes On
Published when the author was just twenty-three, Life Goes On is an autobiographical novel that paints a dark portrait of Germany between the world wars. It tells the story of Max Seldersen - a Jewish store owner modelled on Keilson's father, a textile merchant and decorated World War I veteran - along with his wife, Else, and son, Albrecht, and the troubles they encounter as the German economy collapses and politics turn rancid. The book was banned by the Nazis in 1934. Shortly afterward, following his editor's advice, Keilson emigrated to the Netherlands, where he would spend the rest of his life.
Life Goes On is an essential volume for fans of Keilson's Comedy in a Minor Key and The Death of the Adversary. At the age of one hundred, with his one copy of the first edition of Life Goes On in hand, he told The New York Times he would love to see his first novel reissued and translated, too. 'Then you would have my whole biography,' he told them. He died at the age of one hundred and one.