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Extended Audio Sample Comedy in a Minor Key: A Novel Audiobook, by Hans Keilson Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (796 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Hans Keilson, Damion Searls Narrator: James Clamp Publisher: Macmillan Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2010 ISBN: 9781427212634
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"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 and Comedy in a Minor Key are masterpieces, and Hans Keilson is a genius..." —Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review

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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “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 and Comedy in a Minor Key are masterpieces, and Hans Keilson is a genius . . . Although the novels are quite different, both are set in Nazi-occupied Europe and display their author's eye for perfectly illustrative yet wholly unexpected incident and detail, as well as his talent for storytelling and his extraordinarily subtle and penetrating understanding of human nature. But perhaps the most distinctive aspect they share is the formal daring of the relationship between subject matter and tone. 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, which each of us must compose on our own, of the world's very greatest writers. Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review

  • This first-ever English translation of Keilson's gripping 1947 novel about a Dutch couple hiding a Jewish perfume merchant in their home during WWII marks a welcome reintroduction to the author's unfortunately obscure oeuvre . . . Beautifully nuanced and moving, Keilson's tale probes the more concealed, subtle forces that annihilate the human spirit. Publishers Weekly
  • [Comedy in a Minor Key's] design is so neat, spare, and geometric that to think of it is like tapping a spoon to a crystal glass. Yelena Akhtiorskaya, The Forward
  • A brisk, engaging work of Holocaust literature that deserves to be better known. Brendan Driscoll, Booklist
  • What Keilson had experienced, body and soul, went into this precisely composed book, which succeeds in capturing the tragedy of countless anonymous victims alongside the grotesquerie of the individual tragic case. Ulrich Weinzierl, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • A 2010 New York Times Book Review Notable Book
  • A 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tom | 2/5/2014

    " Good quick read that brings to life the day to day in a period that was so important on the macro scale. Everyday events keep dominating grand themes and it is what most people really care about at the end of the day. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jen | 1/26/2014

    " This book is something you should really keep on your physical bookshelf (or in your computer.. or tablet.. or whatever serves your fancy) and every time you feel sorry for yourself - go read it. It's not a 'woe is me' story, it's simply a 'this is a fact' story. Sometimes, you just get caught up in a whirlwind. Sometimes, you just try to do what's right. Sometimes, you put your life on the line for a total stranger. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anastasia Hobbet | 1/24/2014

    " An achingly spare look at a young couple in WWII Holland who take in a Jewish man to protect him from the Nazis. The couple is ordinary. They have no sense of heroism and they spout no nationalistic or religious ideals. But the circumstances then demanded a lot from even the most ordinary people. These two risk their lives for total strangers. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Aengus | 1/8/2014

    " Set in Holland during WW II, a couple loosely affiliated with the Dutch resistance take in a Jewish refugee hiding from the Nazis. After a brief period, they begin to resent one another in small ways. Their lodger becomes even more annoying when he dies. Their displeaure with him grows when they find how difficult clandestine corpse disposal is in a police state. Not a funny book, but a black comedy with insight into the motives of people trying to do the right thing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gaile Wakeman | 1/7/2014

    " Kind of a charming little book with a nebulous title. Keilson is a fine writer and this is a bit slick but with a kernel of truth that got under my skin. Definitely worth reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jonathan | 1/7/2014

    " Just like the title says. And it is a really good little book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Darby Dixon III | 1/6/2014

    " Still forming my thoughts on this one. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 LeAnne | 12/12/2013

    " Novella about a couple who harbor a Jew during WWII. I just can't love short stories or novellas; just not enough time to develop the characters. I couldn't relate to any of them. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jonathan Cantor | 12/3/2013

    " This is simply a magnificent book. The story is written with delicate precision on each page and is quite a joy. It took me less than a day to read, and I hope everyone on this site has the pleasure to spend time and read this novel as well and enjoy it as much as I did. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Avidreader | 10/28/2013

    " Can a book be so insightful and yet so simple? Hans Kielson's deep characterization and the plight of ordinary people under extraordinary pressure is enthralling. Reading this book was an enriching experience. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Debra | 10/20/2013

    " "Comedy" is copyrighted 1947. A Dutch couple hiding a 40 year old Jew in 1943. Could I be this brave? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paula Steinhoff | 4/11/2013

    " different perspective on those in hiding during the war "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Genevieve | 1/18/2013

    " Was a different perspective of the holocaust, not particularly life-changing but it gave psychological peeks into what went on in the minds of both the Jews who were hidden and the people who hid them. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Bracton | 12/11/2012

    " So boring I couldn't finish it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jason | 9/21/2012

    " Reviewed the book for Flavorpill "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Diane | 9/6/2012

    " The story of a couple who take in a Jewish man to hide during WWII. The wife fantasizes about how she will be admired by others when the war is over for being brave and selfless; the man dies. It is the story of what happens to the couple after the fact. This is black humor at its best. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John | 8/31/2012

    " The couple in this story are ordinary people, not energetic resistance fighters. This little book will help you experience the tension and the fear and adjustments in living associated with sheltering a Jewish refugee in your home in occupied Europe during the Second World War. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ree | 5/13/2012

    " I just could not get into this book so I set it aside. It has really good reviews - maybe I missed something. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Idra | 4/3/2012

    " Amazing novel. And evidence of how often it happens that an amazing book can go unrecognized for decades. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Georgia | 11/3/2011

    " Short but very well written - I loved how Keilson was able to tie humor into an otherwise dark, depressing story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marla | 9/2/2011

    " Unfortunately I am not a big fan of short stories or novellas because they are too short. They always leave me somewhat dissatisfied. I should have noticed this was only 112 pages before I bought it for my Kindle. I kept trying to turn the page but it was the end. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brenda | 7/16/2011

    " A "must read" book --- Written in 1947, it is one of the best novellas that I have read--I missed the comedy though--perhaps that is in the translation ---I could however visualize the story being made into a Black Comedy film directed by the Cohen brothers. . "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris | 5/11/2011

    " A Jewish man lives with a young newly-wed couple in the Netherlands in the 1930's and then dies from pneumonia, so they have to get rid of his body without the police finding out. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Staci | 5/11/2011

    " A psychological examination of a Jew and the Dutch couple who hide him during the Occupation. This novel is succinct without losing it's poetry; Keilson crafts it with humor, intrigue and deep sadness. Highly recommend. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sherwood | 3/6/2011

    " Not as good as Death of the Adversary, but good nonetheless. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Myles | 3/5/2011

    " This book is about a Dutch couple who hide a Jewish refugee during WWII. The story is short and spare. The psychological insights of the redeemer and the redeemed are acute. But maybe a person who is a little more introspective than can appreciate the fine pen the author uses. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sam | 2/16/2011

    " 'twas good and also sad. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laurel | 2/14/2011

    " Comedy in a Minor Key is absurd, sad and sweet. Wim, Marie and Nico (the houseguest) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jennifer | 2/6/2011

    " Tables are turned when a hidden Jewish refugee dies. . . "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Genevieve | 2/1/2011

    " Was a different perspective of the holocaust, not particularly life-changing but it gave psychological peeks into what went on in the minds of both the Jews who were hidden and the people who hid them. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 LeAnne | 1/29/2011

    " Novella about a couple who harbor a Jew during WWII. I just can't love short stories or novellas; just not enough time to develop the characters. I couldn't relate to any of them. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathleen | 1/25/2011

    " How amazing it is to still be finding Holocaust literature that was written in 1947, only to be recently translated. A story worth reading, dealing with the difficulty of getting a Jew who died out of a house where he was hiding in the Netherlands. "

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About the Narrator

James Clamp is an award-winning voice actor, earning his first AudioFile Earphones Award in 2011. Originally from London, he currently lives in New York.