The backstory: Comedy in a Minor Key was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. It was originally published in German in 1949 and was only translated into English last year.
The basics: The story of a marriage during war, Comedy in a Minor Key follows Marie and Wim, a Dutch couple who take the risk to secretly house Nico, a Jew. They bravely take in a stranger despite their trepidation.
My thoughts: With less than 150 pages in this novella, Keilson infuses a remarkable amount of danger, beauty, and action. Marie and Wim are heroic yet ordinary. Their relationship with Nico is haunting to watch. The story itself jumps around through time, which helps maintain both the action and the suspenseful contemplation of its characters.
I've found myself increasingly drawn to tales of marriage, across many places, ages and spectrums. The Story of Wim and Marie was fascinating and their love moved me deeply. There was a quiet, real, trust and honesty to their relationship I appreciated:
"He understood her, he understood her completely. But he couldn't help her."As I read, I couldn't help but picture myself as a reader of this novella in 1949. In some ways, the timing makes it even more powerful. To know Keilson had the faith and bravery of his characters to write this work then moved me. It would be powerful if it were written today, but as a relic from its own time, it's even more inspiring.
Favorite passage: "And in the end, every situation conceals within itself certain unforeseen possibilities."
The verdict: Comedy in a Minor Key is a haunting, tragic tale of civilian life during war. Although incredibly short, it's a novella that will stay with me for quite some time.
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Publication date: July 20, 2010 (first English translation); it's in paperback now (originally published in 1949)
Source: my local public library
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