My enemy - I shall refer to him as B. - entered my life about twenty years ago. At that time I had only a very vague idea of what it meant to be someone's enemy; still less did I realise what it was to have an enemy. One has to mature gradually towards one's enemy as towards one's best friend. 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.
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All-around hero of the twentieth century - The Believer
It's no wonder that this strange, hypnotic book goes on vanishing and being rediscovered.It speaks of things it hurts our souls to know about: above all, the diabolic mutuality - call it a dependence, call it love, even - that exists between a tyrant and those he tyrannises.With the most terrible lucidity, Hans Keilson tracks this shaming, murderous relationship to its savage end' - Howard Jacobson
For busy, harried or distractible readers who have the time and energy only to skim the opening paragraph of a review, I'll say this as quickly and clearly as possible: The Death of the Adversary... [is a] masterpiece, and Hans Keilson is agenius... Rarely has a finer, more closely focused lens been used to study such a broad and brutal panorama, mimetically conveying a failure to come to grips with reality by refusing to call that reality by its proper name... Rarely have such harrowing narratives been related with such wry, off-kilter humor, and in so quiet a whisper. Read these books and join me in adding him to the list of the world's very greatest writers - New York Times Book Review
The events he describes throw up two reoccurring themes, which are at the heart of this book: the power and depth of hatred and triumph over adversity... His age is incredible. His memories overwhelm. His mind, lucid and greater than the entire 20th century - El Pais
The story is amazing: Hans Keilson, born in 1909, is a German Jew who, during World War II, became a member of the Dutch resistance, then a novelist and psychiatrist specializing in the war trauma of children, and is still living, at almost 101, near Amsterdam. Half a lifetime ago, he gave up fiction for his practice... Then, this year, he is rediscovered... It's as if, one morning, we were to learn that not only had Anne Frank survived the secret annex but was also still among us - Los Angeles Times
[Keilson is] a consummate artist, a wonderful writer - Globe and Mail
By this author
About the Author
Born in Germany in 1909, Hans Keilson finished medical school just as laws against Jewish doctors came into force. He published his first novel in 1933. It was the last novel that the German publisher Fischer Verlag were allowed to publish by a Jewish writer. By 1934 the novel was banned. His editor warned him to get out of the country and Keilson emigrated to the Netherlands in 1936. In mid 1943 Keilson went into hiding, began to write The Death of the Adversary and joined the Dutch Resistance. His parents were killed in Auschwitz. After the war, as a psychiatrist in the Netherlands Keilson pioneered the treatment of war trauma in children. In 2008 he received the Die Welt Literature Prize. Hans Keilson has recently celebrated his 101st birthday.