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In de ban van de tegenstander

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  473 ratings  ·  92 reviews
Written while Hans Keilson was in hiding during World War II, The Death of the Adversary is the self-portrait of a young man helplessly fascinated by an unnamed 'adversary' whom he watches rise to power in 1930s Germany. It is a tale of horror, not only in its evocation of Hitler’s gathering menace but also in its hero’s desperate attempt to discover logic where none exist ...more
Paperback, 239 pages
Published September 2010 by Uitgeverij Van Gennep (first published 1959)
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Are you kidding me?

This book looked gloomy and philosophical and (best of all) short, so I picked it up at 50% off at the Borders Going Out of Business Sale. They had THREE copies of it. That should have been a warning sign, I guess. Why would a Borders have three copies of relatively obscure midcentury WWII novel -- especially this late in the sale?

Well, this is why: It's horrific. Not 'horrific' in that it evocatively details the atrocities of WWII, but 'horrific' in that it takes place entire
Esteban del Mal

Life's too short to read Socratic dialogues disguised as psychological first-person narratives, wherein said first-person has total recall about every conversation he's ever had.
Ans Luiken
Ik zie een zwart-witfoto met op de achtergrond de Brandenburger Poort in Berlijn.
Een groep geüniformeerde, vlaggendragende jongens marcheert richting camera.
Zijdelings van de groep loopt een niet geüniformeerde jongen.
De foto is zo gemaakt dat duidelijk te zien is dat de vlaggendragers opgaan in de groep. De individuele jongen steekt als een eenzaam donker silhouet tegen een lichte achtergrond af.
Hoort die jongen bij de groep of niet?
Een jongeman vertelt hoe hij van jongs af aan st
John David
This may be the most enjoyable experience reading fiction that I have had in the last year – and also one of the most profound and unexpected. My attention was piqued in June when I heard of Keilson’s death at the age of 101; I knew he was considered to be a good author, yet I never read him. Having long had a penchant for the bleak, searching quality of twentieth-century Dutch fiction, particularly Willem Frederik Hermans, Harry Mulisch, and Gerard Reve, I decided to read this.

However stunning
This is the second of two novels by Keilson now available in the U.S. A holocaust survivor, Keilson is nearing 101 and his fiction is only now being re-discovered here. A German Jewish doctor he fled Germany for the Netherlands after his first novel was banned in the mid-thirties. He joined the Dutch resistance after the Nazi occupation, was forced into hiding (an experience that informed his novel Comedy in a Minor Key), and after war’s end became a leading psychoanalyst, specializing in childr ...more
In de ban van de tegenstander, is een indrukwekkend boek, dat door een ik-verteller word verteld. Het beschrijft de opkomst en de toenemende dreiging van het nazisme. Toen verteller 10 jaar was vertelde zijn vader dat ze een vijand hadden en dat was B. Mijn kinderlijke onbevangenheid was aangetast. Vooral toen hij een foto van B in handen kreeg, kon hij het niet begrijpen dat die persoon tot vreselijke dingen in staat was. Hij ging het merken, werd gepest in zijn jeugd. Werd overal buitengeslote ...more
Keilson, who survived World War II in hiding in Holland and working with the Dutch resistance, here tells a fable of a man - nameless - whose life and being is permeated by a constant obsession with a formidable adversary. Never referred to by name, the adversary is obviously Hitler. Curiously, the protagonist - who dreams of killing Hitler and feels that he is called to do so - is also somewhat ambivalent about his adversary, to whom he feels a powerful connection and even, in a strange way, a ...more
Mark Van Aken Williams
This novel is set in Nazi-occupied Europe, although it is never mentioned. There is no guessing here. The adversary is the Führer (referred to as “my enemy”) and the word Nazi is never used. All of this creates an atmosphere where the protagonist fails to come to grips with the reality of the ascendance of National Socialism and the relationship between subject matter and context. Written as memoir, we see how a person who is just as caught up in the culture of his homeland as those who seek to ...more
This is a very strange book and I can't quite put my finger on why. But I will try. I think what was most strange in it was that at various times I couldn't distinguish metaphor from reality. Also, the book is told as if its scenes are recollections, but the memories are crystalline in detail and thus impossible. And stories told in dialogue during the book are literary such that imagining the character actually telling a story this way makes it bizarre.. These are not bad things, I think they w ...more
Zeena  Price
This is a difficult book to categorize- part history, part memoir, part philosophical treatise. But what a treat it was to read. I can honestly say that this is one of the only books I have ever read that actually brought tears to my eyes. The writing is very sparse, but manages to pack a strong emotional punch at the same time. Written by a German Jew witnessing Hitler's slow yet terrifying rise to power in the 1930s, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in the psychological eff ...more
For the first ten pages or so I thought I was going to have to agree with reviewers who found this boring. And it is much harder to read than the relatively breezy (if also thought-provoking and disturbing) Comedy in a Minor Key. But after the puzzling abstraction of the initial pages, in which the interdependence of the protagonist and his enemy are discussed, the plot becomes gradually more and more concrete. Nazis and Jews are never mentioned by name, but it becomes clearer and clearer why th ...more
Roderick Hart
An unnamed narrator gives us his thoughts on his adversary, B. It is safe to say that B is Hitler and the narrator Jewish.

This is a novel in that a story is told, there are characters and we have dialogue. There are also events. For example, one character describes in some detail what is plainly an act of desecration of a Jewish cemetery. And on another occasion, B arrives at the same hotel the narrator is staying in and gives a speech which the narrator hears at one remove via a loudspeaker in
Ben Dutton
Hans Keilson’s The Death of the Adversary has recently been reissued in the UK as a Vintage Classic. I came across it on one of those serendipitous journeys through my local book-store. There it was on the shelf, all moody blacks and greys, looking exactly like something I might love. Its moody, sonorous opening sentences – “For days and weeks now I have thought of nothing but death” – an intoxication. I decided not to read the blurb, but bought on instinct, and read it in one breathless sitting ...more
Gerbrand Dunnewind
Dit is het eerste boek van Hans Keilson, in het Duits gepubliceerd in 1959. Keilson is zelf naar Nederland gevlucht in 1936. Zijn beide ouders zijn omgekomen in Auschwitz. Keilson was psychiater van beroep. En dat is te merken in dit boek, waarvan ik de Nederlandse titel beter vind dan het Duitse origineel: Der Tod des Widersachers.

De ik-verteller, naamloos, probeert de tegenstander te doorgronden, zoals een psychiater zijn patient. Hitler of joden worden niet bij naam genoemd. Ook land en plaat
Aug 07, 2010 Kiesha marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Great review in the NYT on this author.
Catherine Hurst
While this book offers a chilling and moving account of the growth of Hitler's power during the 1920s and 1930s, I found it a very hard book to read. The language was awkward--possibly the translator, possibly a more stilted style of pre-war German writing. In addition, there were many paragraphs of philosophical musing where I had a hard time figuring out what the author meant. There was a lot of repetition--with tighter editing it would have worked better as a novella rather than a shortish no ...more
Frank Debaere
Zie recensie in De Morgen 1-12-2010.
A me sembra che sia una di quelle opere nelle quali il Contenuto soffoca la Forma.

A me sembra che il mestiere dell’autore (psicologo) sia croce e scarsa delizia di questo romanzo.

A me sembra che, cara Mrs Prose, ‘capolavoro’ sia una parola che andrebbe usata con più parsimonia. E forse anche ‘genio’ è termine un po’ abusato.

A me sembra che, nonostante le magnifiche e importanti intenzioni di Keilson, questo libro sia molto noioso, e di faticosa lettura.

A me sembra che
Read this book. Read this book.

I want to be really clear about this one: At about page ten or so I realized this was one of the best books I have ever read. It joins my little list of elite books that are those I will perennially recommend and cite as the great books I have read (Handful of Dust, Hundred Years of Solitude, Spandau: The Secret Diaries, Remains of the Day...being others).

The book is an incredibly insightful, eloquent, look at human nature and the failures of human nature that al
“He, too, knew the secrets of the dark-room and its temptations—the scope it offers for tricks and retouchings, the complete or incomplete likenesses that always remain unsatisfactory” (105).
“ ‘Fairy tales, I tell you, nothing but fairy tales. Even then, of course, during the so-called childhood of mankind, and equally now, when the human race is getting ready to go to sleep or dies. The world is governed by fairy tales’” (110).
“Everything has to be complicated, I thought, nothing is simple, and
Just as Hitler used the Jews as an alien other around which to build up himself and Germany, so the narrator here uses Hitler as the enabling and empowering adversary which gives his life meaning. But were not the Shoah so close to us in time, the reader might not connect the story told here with it. The story could conceivably stand in for virtually any conflict among the Judeo-Christian hoards. For the tale has been universalized and removed from it have been all identifying labels of time, pl ...more
A testament to the palpable disdain the protagonist - ostensibly, Keilson - felt for his "adversary" (clearly, Hitler), and his ensuing internal conflict.

This chronicles the evolution of Keilson's awareness of the ascension of Hitler as a political enemy, juxtaposed by personal experiences of his youth.
Even as a boy, he is able to correlate rejection by his classmates with the ascension of Hitler, in situations where earlier it had not mattered.

Children learn fear through adults, and the prota
A strange book about events leading up to the Holocaust. I say strange because the narrator, through a supposedly posthumous journal, tells us of events leading up to the time of tyranny in Germany. However, Hitler is never mentioned by name, he is only referred to as "my adversary, B." Nor is the word "Jew" ever mentioned in the book; we can only surmise it is about Jews through oblique references such as "because of who we are" or "because we are different." The author seems to go through a co ...more
Josh Meares
It is tough to read a book about the Holocaust. And this book is no different, except it is not really about the Holocaust. Hans Keilson has created a book about how the Holocaust could happen. How did the Jewish population react? How were the Germans incited to such hatred? How did one man become so powerful?
These are questions that I don't think anyone can really answer. But I appreciate the way that Keilson dealt with them.

Keilson also deals, rather obliquely, with the question of God and wh
What is the relationship between persecutors and their victims? In The Death of The Adversary – poised on the brink of what soon will be one of the world’s most horrific tragedies – an unnamed narrator in an unnamed country reflects on an unnamed figure who will soon ascend to power. Although the figure (“B”) is never revealed, it soon becomes obvious that he is Hitler and that the narrator is of Jewish descent.

The narrator – who bemoans his own passivity – is blessed, or cursed, with high intel
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Translated from the German by Iva Jarosy

“One cannot cut the lines of experience out of one’s face, like the rotten bits in an apple; one has to carry them about in one’s face and know that one carries them; one sees them, as in a mirror, every day when one washes oneself, and one cannot cut them out, they belong there.”

“He had swore to her…that this was how it had all happened, as though he had first to mist the mirror slightly with his breath before he could dare to look into it. […] What can
Kasa Cotugno
In The Death of the Adversary the narrator fantasizes about assassinating B, whose rise to power is interfering with his and his family's state of well being. B, of course, is Hitler, whose name is never used. As with the newly "discovered" works of Irene Nemirovsky and Hans Fallada, Hans Keilson's books, written over 60 years ago, give penetrating insight into European life during the Nazi regime in a way no contemporary author can duplicate. This haunting tale of a young man in Berlin during H ...more
A Kafkaesque tale of the rise of Hitler written by a Dutchman in hiding from the Nazis during the war, this book grows on one as it builds to its climax. It raises puzzling and provocative questions about the nature of human reluctance to stand up to evil, which has to be one of the great mysteries of 20th century Europe, and the theory that one needs an enemy to be whole and to live is troubling, to say the least. I finished it wanting to go back to the beginning and start over again, but inste ...more
Kris McCracken
Hans Keilson’s The Death of the Adversary is an odd little portrait of a nameless young man tracking an unnamed “adversary” whom he watches rise to power in an unnamed country in the 1930s. Keilson – a German Jew – wrote the book while in hiding in the Netherlands during World War Two. Interestingly, the novel itself has been lauded as a ‘lost’ masterpiece in the last few years.

Now, I shall be frank and confess that although I think that the book is a really interesting piece of history, as a l
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Hans Keilson is the author of Comedy in a Minor Key and The Death of the Adversary. Born in Germany in 1909, he published his first novel in 1933. During World War II he joined the Dutch resistance. Later, as a psychotherapist, he pioneered the treatment of war trauma in children. In a 2010 New York Times review, Francine Prose called Keilson a “genius” and “one of the world’s very greatest writer ...more
More about Hans Keilson...
Comedy in a Minor Key Life Goes On Da Steht Mein Haus: Erinnerungen Wohin Die Sprache Nicht Reicht: Vortrage Und Essays Aus Den Jahren 1936-1996 Werke In Zwei Bänden

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