Literature and War Readalong November 29 2013 Meets German Literature Month: Death of the Adversary – Der Tod des Widersachers by Hans Keilson

Death of the Adversary

This months readalong title Death of the Adversary aka Der Tod des Widersachers by Hans Keilson is also part of German Literature Month. Keilson was an interesting figure. A German/Dutch novelist and psychiatrist who is most famous for his WWII novels. Born in 1909 in Germany, Keilson, who was Jewish, emigrated in 1936 to the Netherlands where he stayed until his death in 2011. During the war he was part of the Dutch Resistance. In his work he tried to analyse and illustrate the psychological, political and cultural aftermath of WWII.

Here is the book blurb

1930s Germany; the shadow of Nazism looms. Pictures of the new dictator, ‘B.’, fill magazines and newspapers. Our hero is ten when his world begins to change dramatically. Suddenly, the other children won’t let him join in their games. Later, he is refused a job on a shop-floor. Later still, he hears youths boasting of an attack on a Jewish cemetery. Both hypnotised and horrified by his enemy, our hero chronicles the fear, anger and defiance of everyday life under tyranny.

Written while Hans Keilson was in hiding during World War II, this novel is a powerful account of what he outlived. Painful, trenchant and streaked with dark humour The Death of the Adversary is a rediscovered masterpiece.

And the first sentences

For days and weeks now I have thought of nothhing but death. Though I am normally a late riser, I get up early every morning now, calm and uplifted, after a night of drealess sleep. I feel all my powers string and ready within me, as they have not been for a long time. I welcome the day which brings me once again the thought of death.


The discussion starts on Friday, 29 November 2013.

Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2013, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.

16 thoughts on “Literature and War Readalong November 29 2013 Meets German Literature Month: Death of the Adversary – Der Tod des Widersachers by Hans Keilson

  1. This looks to be a very interesting book. The dynamic that occurs when people become to0 enamored with dictators is interesting but troubling. I think can also make for very enlightening fiction.

  2. This looks like a very autobiographical and a beautiful book, Caroline. Love that passage you have quoted, especially the last sentence – so powerful. It will be interesting to compare this novel with Keilson’s memoir. Happy reading, Caroline! Will look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book.

  3. What an interesting person the author sounds – I’d really like to know more about him. I’m always fascinated by psychotherapists/psychiatrists who write. Does this book have a psychological dimension, do you know?

    • I’m not sure. I only know he gave up writing in the end to dedicate himself full time to psychiatry. He was specialized in trauma in children.
      I think you’d find his memoir interesting. It might already be translated.

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