Mendelssohn Is On the Roof
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Mendelssohn Is On the Roof

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  243 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Traces the lives of ordinary people in Nazi-occupied Prague. In this ironic pageant of crossing and recrossing lives, death wins all the battles but ultimately loses the war, defeated by the fragile flowering of courage and defiance.
228 pages
Published February 20th 1992 by Flamingo (first published 1960)
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Weil, Jiri. MENDELSSOHN IS ON THE ROOF. (1960, trans. 1991). *****. Weil was one of the best known writers in Central Europe in the 1930s. In his youth he was a militant communist, but was later forced out of the party. In 1942, he was summoned for transport to a concentration camp, along with the rest of Prague’s Jews, but he feigned suicide and managed to hide out for the rest of the war. He died in Prague in 1959. This novel starts out in a way that makes you believe that it will be a comic r...more
Adam Rabiner
While Primo Levi, Ann Frank, and Eli Weizel are well known contributors to Holocaust literature, Jiri Weil is not. It is a shame that Weil is not better known because his work is just as powerful. This novel, set in German occupied Prague, "The Protectorate" as it is known, faithfully and horrifically describes life outside of the concentration camp. The closest it gets is the Terezin ghetto. Life was equally bleak outside the extermination camps. The novel views the world through the eyes of va...more
Errol Orhan
It starts out as quite a funny and light book, as a satire of the nazi's occupying Prague. Of course, this was no picknick, and after about one hundred pages the tone changes to melancholy and misery. However, it never becomes cliched or melodramatical. On the contrary, the portraits painted by Weil are deeply moving.

Now, I didnt give it five stars, because I was really enjoying the mocking of nazis, when suddenly the stories started to become grimmer and grimmer and the dark humour that charac...more
I really didn't like the author's other book, and so I hesitated to try this one, but I figured, what the heck, the title's great, let's give it a go. I'm really glad I did! I think this book gets a great feel for the atmosphere of chaos, uncertainty and fear in the Holocaust, and you see the lives of the characters (there are a lot of them, many of them not connected to each other) spin around each other and occasionally intersect, and you hold your breath as each person's story comes to its in...more
The farce of the attempts to remove the statue of Felix Mendelssohn from the roof of Prague’s Rudolfinum during the Nazi occupation is one of the great stories of Prague’s otherwise tragic time in the euphemistically named Reichsprotektorate of Bohemia and Moravia; the orthodoxies of Nazi ‘racial science’ holds that the Jewish composer should have the biggest nose, when that was the case for the statue of Wagner – the Nazi’s favourite composer. In the end, Mendelssohn was taken down but left on...more
May 10, 2008 Leah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Czech history buffs, WWII fiction fans, Prague lovers
The main problem with this work is the confusing nature of the storyline. Weil clearly has the grandest of ambitions, and it is obvious that he is a capable, strong writer. The ideas for a remarkable story are certainly there, as is the character development - from the Jewish families, Nazi officials, and Czech citizens. The subtle nuances of each individual struggling to survive in Nazi-occupied Prague bring striking humanity to the most inhuman times; Weil manages to portray each individual ch...more
The story of Mendelssohn's statue is the starting point for this satirical look at Prague under Nazi occupation, told through the lives of various inhabitants of the city. It is as much a collection of related short stories as a novel, as each person's narrative could be seen a a story in itself. Some of the stories are grim, it becomes harder to make fun of the occupiers as their repression continues, but there are a few uplifting moments too. It becomes a testament of life under a brutal regim...more
What a sad story about life (and death) under the German occupation of Prague! The beginning is a bit lighter, even funny, with the story of the Mendelssohn statue that has to be torn down as he had Jewish origins. However as there are several statues nobody knows which one is Mendelssohn's! Afterwards the story (or better stories as each chapter seems to be a story of its own) gradually gets a lot more serious describing the desperate struggle of various individuals to survive.
Very good book about people living under Nazi occupation outside Prague. Similar to Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francais, but with more irony.
Andrew Robins
In German occupied Prague, an SS man is sent, by Heydrich, to the roof of the concert hall to pull down the statue of the (jewish) composer Mendelssohn. Unable to tell which is Mendelssohn, and unable to ask for assistance without putting his well-being at risk, he makes the mistake of opting to pull down the one with the largest nose, which turns out to be Nazi hero Wagner.

This story is the starting point for a series of loosely connected stories which tell the story of the German occupation. S...more
Het boek zet je van bij het begin op het foute been. Het begint zelfs grappig als een paar werklieden op zoek moeten naar het beeld van Mendelssohn op het dak van het concertgebouw, maar per ongeluk het verkeerde naar beneden halen. (een waar gebeurde 'anecdote' trouwens)
Daarna neemt het boek je mee in de levens van een heleboel personages, vooral Joden, die in het bezette Praag een gruwelijke strijd op leven en dood voeren.
Het minpunt van het boek is voor mij dat deze figuren (verhaallijnen du...more
Soms zet een beschrijving van de inhoud van een boek je een beetje op het verkeerde been. Hoewel het er bij nader inzien niet staat, verwachtte ik een boek waarin alles zou draaien om het neerhalen van het verkeerde beeld van het concertgebouw (Rudolfinum) in Praag. Maar dat bleek niet zo te zijn. Het is simpelweg het begin van Mendelssohn op het dak en laat ons kennismaken met Julius Schlesinger, gemeenteambtenaar en lid van de gewone SS, niet eens van de Waffen-SS, zonder rang en alleen maar k...more
André Bogaert
Roman, uitgegeven in 1960 en nu pas uit het Tsjechisch in het Nederlands vertaald. Over de Duitse gruweldaden in het Rijksprotectoraat, dat Tsjechië was sinds 1938. Doet denken aan Primo Levi. Zou door iedereen moeten gelezen worden, vooral door hen die nu weer dwepen met nazisme en dictatuur. Het blijft voor mij een raadsel hoe wreed mensen kunnen zijn, als ze 'losgelaten' worden dank zij de machtswellust van een psychopaat. De roman speelt zich af in de tijd waarin Heydrich, die de reputatie h...more
Dana Larose
Set in Prague during the Nazi occupation in World War 2 and follows the lives of several different, mostly Jewish, characters. It's almost more a collection of loosely connected short stories than a novel.

From the back cover: "Julius Schlesinger, aspiring SS officer, has received his new orders to remove from the roof of Prague's concert hall the statue of the Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn. But which of the figures adorning the roof is the Jew? Remember his course on 'racial science,' Schles...more
Bernardo Hourmat
Medelssohn on the Roof starts off to a rather surrealistic and almost light-hearted account of the episode that give the book its name. However, despite the humorous overtones of this particular episode, as the narrative progresses along its web of interwoven characters meant to represent ordinary Czechs under Nazi occupation, the reader quickly finds itself fighting off a growing feeling of encroachment, as the realities of the Nazi occupation (particularly towards European jews) becomes inesca...more
Wie HhhH een mooi boek vond, vindt dit waarschijnlijk ook goed. De gebeurtenissen in Praag tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog zijn op een, bijna koele, afstandelijke manier beschreven. Hier en daar wat fragmentarisch en soms wat lastig te volgen omdat veel namen en plaatsen geanonimiseerd zijn. Tegelijkertijd wordt het verhaal daardoor nog aangrijpender.

Descriptions of the people of Prague during the occupation by Germany, with episodes featuring the occupying forces and the oppressed Czechs. This book can probably be best described as a series of short pieces, almost like short stories, but with recurring characters taking up the plot. There is no strong central narrative thread or dominating POV, but this work is still successful as a portrayal of both the suffering of the Czechs and the monstrosities of the Nazis. The writing is strong, with...more
When I first read this, about ten years ago, I thought it was quite good, a moving portrayal of Bohemia under German occupation. I still think so, but this time the experience of reading it was very different due to my having lived in Prague and read (or at least skimmed) scads of interwar Czech magazine and newspaper articles, including some by Weil. This time I knew more of the locations personally, recognized many more of the historical references and people mentioned, etc. This naturally mad...more
Bob Stocker
Jiří Weil's Mendelssohn on the Roof is a great novel about the ghastly treatment of Jews during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia. Although it's impossible write about this subject without including some brutality, Weil's novel is not excessively graphic. Instead Weil uses the novel to describe the thoughts and motivations of his primary characters, which include both Germans and Jews. The result offers some insight about how human organizations could be capable of such atrocities.
Nejdřív se to zdálo jako zábavná knížka z protektorátu, což je samo o sobě odvážný počin, který mě bavil. Pak se nějak humor vytratil, ale až ke konci mi došlo, že to je klasická protektorátní depka. Nejen konec, skoro celá knížka. Ale dařilo se to celkem dlouho tajit. Je to dost podivnuhodný útvar, který určitě stojí za přečtení, ale když už se do toho zamotala ta závažnost (ono těžko se jí vyhnout), tak bych ty příběhy uvítala mnohem propracovanější.
Set in Czechoslovakia during the reign of terror of Reinhard Heydrich, this book is anything but funny, yet it contains one of the most humorous scenes in all of the WWII books I've every read -- the incident on the roof of the Prague opera house noted in the goodreads description of the book.
Roger Abrahams
Prachtig boek over de Duitse bezetting van Bohemen en Moravië, maar in het bijzonder van Praag. Humoristisch, vooral in het begin, maar door de constante neutrale en feitelijke schrijfstijl wordt het verhaal almaar schrijnender en schrijnender. Knap en aangrijpend.
Mary Lou
This book is a little difficult to get into, but once I did I was hooked right up to the last page. These harrowing stories are told powerfully and simply, fear permeates throughout,and the result is a very touching and memorable book.
A perspective of the occupation of Prague and the Holocaust that shines a light on the absurdity of oppression while not letting up on its horror. I had occasion to think of Catch 22 at a few points. An interesting and worthwhile read.
Scenes from Nazi-occupied Prague, mostly written from the point of view of Jewish victims of the Regime, but some scenes also show the mentality of the NS-soldiers. Simple in style, poignant and extremely moving.
like life with a star, mendelssohn deals with prague during the nazi occupation. unlike life with a star, it is much wider in scope and much more raw and real.
Het boek begint vrij laconiek, maar langzaam trekt de schaduw van de wrede werkelijkheid over het boek en is het niet meer weg te leggen.
Martha Anne Toll
This book is incredibly powerful, by a Czech Jew, who managed to escape the Holocaust. It is a searing look at occupied Prague.
Moving portrayal of Nazi-occupied Czech. Funny and tragic at the same time - everyone should read this!
Hurrah! It is in print after all. Review to follow when it finally arrives from the US of A.
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“[To be a master] means that he must renounce everything personal, that he must be alone, that he must have no friends, that he must be inscrutable and inaccessible even at home among his family, even at parties and dinners. All that remains for him is music; it always helps when he feels tired; it offers peace and contentment; the tensions of the day melt away in it. He remembers listening to Beethoven's Fourth after the Night of the Long Knives, remembers how it gave him strength to carry on, to continue interrogating enemies and beating confessions out of them. The music cleansed everything that time, even the blood.” 2 likes
“The minister said, "Music in stone," and truly this phrase, bandied about by authors of art books, described Prague well. The city was, indeed, steeped in music and brought into harmony by it. ” 2 likes
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