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Mendelssohn Is On the Roof

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  479 Ratings  ·  51 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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Sep 26, 2008 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 15, 2012 Adam Rabiner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mientras Leo
May 19, 2016 Mientras Leo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
De una anécdota parte la visión de una tragedia

Errol Orhan
Aug 03, 2012 Errol Orhan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sezín Koehler
I want to give this book 500 Stars. It should be required reading for everyone above the age of 14. Marvelous and heartwrenching account of life in Prague under the Nazi occupation. Initially the novel lulls you into a false sense of comfort that it will be one of these tongue-in-cheek ironic Czech comedies of error, but it quickly turns to a painfully honest account of the things people (are forced to) do when faced with horrific non-choices and the small moments in which they find hope even if ...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
Dec 03, 2014 Leah rated it really liked it  ·  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
Dana Larose
Jan 01, 2015 Dana Larose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, 2008
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
Jul 03, 2015 Val rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-tour
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
Jan Koster
Mar 02, 2016 Jan Koster rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Genoten van dit boek, zie recensie
Sep 17, 2013 Nadine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 03, 2013 Zuzana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 22, 2016 Lesley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a moving, dark and yet often funny book about the lives of ordinary people in Prague during the Nazi occupation. It could be seen as a series of small vignettes, each chapter relating to one character. The recurring theme is stone, and statues. The SS have no means of identifying Mendelssohn's statue on the roof of the Concert Hall. So begins a comedy of errors that involves the Gestapo, and then it's not so funny. It's a terrifying depiction of a people who live in fear and silence unde ...more
Mar 28, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good book about people living under Nazi occupation outside Prague. Similar to Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francais, but with more irony.
Jun 22, 2014 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Weil's novel about Nazi-occupied Prague has its poignant moments. I thought it was most successful in conveying the viewpoint of Jewish collaborators and their Nazi masters; I was less impressed by the heroic non-collaborators and resisters who seemed to have walked out of a pulp novel. The novel is very readable, but either Weil himself or the translator adopts a distant tone and keeps all of the characters at arms' length. They never seem to rise above being archetypes. Perhaps that is because ...more
Mar 29, 2016 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing contrast to the dreamlike, ambiguous quality of Life With A Star. 'Mendelssohn' is direct, dramatic , blackly comedic and hugely ambitious in its attempt to encompass the experience of the full spectrum of perpetrators and victims. The moral complexity of the book made the occasional character of unrelieved barbarity (Heydrich, the Gestapo officer in the final scene) somewhat at odds and the final section in praise of the Red Army was really forced (perhaps a requirement of the original ...more
Andrew Robins
Nov 04, 2013 Andrew Robins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 23, 2013 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 24, 2013 Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mark McKenny
Apr 27, 2015 Mark McKenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Mar 28, 2016 Kourtney rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, class
I had to read this book for my World War I and II in Lit and Film Class. Most of the books we read in this class are depressing, which isn't surprising. I liked this book. It takes place in Prague during World War II and looks at many different people and the lives they lead during the war. I probably wouldn't have picked this up myself, but it was interesting as I have not necessarily studied the Second World Was in Prague.
Tereza Matoušková
Výborná kniha líčící život v protektorátu, Čechů, Němců a Židů. Velice subjektivní, je jasné, kdo je dobrý a kdo je zlý (viz vypjatá, možná emočně přepjatá závěrečná scéna), ale velice upřímná. Na některých pasážích se zřejmě podepsaly pařáty doby, ve které kniha vyšla (oslava komunistického odboje, rudé armády...), ale vše je do příběhu zakomponováno velice vkusně.


Oběste si svého Wagnera. :3
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
Jan 21, 2015 Lysergius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A spellbinding tale of life in Prague under the Nazi occupation. The city devoid of light, dilapidated, covered in rubbish... The transports, the fortress. Individual tales are singled out to be told... All ending the same way at the hands of the bringers of death. Based on Weil's own experiences the book has the immediacy of personal experience.
Jul 13, 2014 Tiki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5- probably would have worked better as a short story just concentrating on the black comedy of removing the stature of a composer (Mendelssohn) who might have been born a Jew but who converted and lived his life and composed his music as a christian. I loved how the Germans are shown as buffoons in their zeal to carry out ridiculous orders.
Feb 09, 2014 Marjolijn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Dec 03, 2011 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ondřej Puczok
Začátek až banální, člověk si říká, kam se děj vrhne, ale kniha s přečtenými stránkami těžkne až k velmi temnému konci. Vzhledem k době, kdy kniha vznikla, mi bohužel chybí jen nějaký dovětek, co vše byla ještě autorova imaginace a co už na základě reality popsaná skutečnost. Hned po knize navíc čtena kniha Otčina, která ještě dodala tíhy více. Vzhledem k současné náladě v Česku snad jen doufám, že se podobná doba směřující ať už vůči jakékoli skupině lidí opakovat nebude. Nikdy...
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Jiří Weil IPA: [jɪriː vaɪl] was a Czech writer. He was Jewish. His noted works include the two novels Life with a Star, and Mendelssohn Is on the Roof, as well as many short stories, and other novels. ...more
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“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. ” 3 likes
“[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
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