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Heidegger's Glasses

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  759 ratings  ·  143 reviews
Heigegger's Glasses opens during the end of World War II in a failing Germany, when the Third Reich is in shambles. Hitler's strong belief in and reliance on the occult led to the formation of an underground society of scribes responsible for answering letters written to the imprisoned and deceased. A letter arrives at the compound that eminent philosopher Martin Heidegger ...more
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published May 25th 2010 by Phoenix Books (first published 2010)
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switterbug (Betsey)
I wasn't sure I was going to connect with this story at first, due to its absurd premise. Patience is definitely an asset, and the payoff is exceptionally rewarding. The surreal, unique conceit takes the Holocaust as background and purpose and weaves a persuasive tale. Frank's oblique narrative approach is strange, and myth-like, so that the reader is initially at arm's length, bemused at what appears to be an inconceivable plot. However, it all comes together in a compelling, tender, plausible, ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Did...I find I could understand this novel despite being totally ignorant about philosophy?: YES.  There's a philosopher as a character and some lovely passages that have a sort of philosophical bent to them, but the writing and the plot grab you immediately.

Was...I reminded a little of Michael Ondaatje and Jeanette Winterson?: YES.  The book is delicate without being precious or overwrought; the essence of the story is there without being too thin or leaving the reader at arm's length.
Heidegger's Glasses is based on a premise borne of occult leanings of top members of the Hitler's German Reich, that the dead must not be ignored. For this reason, in this "otherworld" Germany, there is a compound of Scribes, all people chosen from transports because of their language skills to live in a compound and write letters that will never be read by a living eye. Goebbels is the mastermind.

At first I wasn't sure about my feelings for this book and where it was heading and put it aside fo
This review also posted on my blog.

I really enjoy reading stories about the Holocaust and about the people who have lived through it. I suppose that in a way, it helps me to gain perspective in my own life, and reminds me that there is goodness to be found in everything. The suffering of the Jewish people during WWII was immense, yet they continue to hope and live. That means something to me.

Heidegger's Glasses takes a different path, a surreal and philosophical and almost mystical one, and is
Dec 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Any random event can cause you to lose your bearings; the world becomes strange, an alien place. For Heidegger, the event was triggered by dropping his glasses. After a time, the world righted itself and he wrote about it.

For those touched by the terror of Nazi Germany, the rise of Hitler created an environment that permanently vacated its place in any normal sequence of events; life was suspended without anchor, past, or future. The only way to survive was to create an alternate space in the mi
More of a 3.5. I don't find quite a four, but it's more than a three.

So I got this book free via Amazon for my new Kindle (and boy does Amazon have hunderds of free books for your Kindle).

To my surprise, it's actually quite good. True, sometimes the writing doesn't quite flow, and I'm not sure if I really like Frank's style. Yet, the story is compelling, the characters fully realized, and I wouldn't have minded paying for it.

Frank tells the story of the Scribes, letter writers to the dead, in W
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every once in a while a random book selection turns out to be a thought provoking gem. Heidegger's Glasses is one such book.

Set in Germany, towards the end of WWII, an underground compound houses a number of Jewish scribes. The only reason why they've managed to avoid being transported to concentration camps or shot outright is because of their multi-language skills. They're kept in this compound to answer letters written by victims in concentration camps, most of whom had died by the time their
Jan 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, 2011
Heideggers Glasses is a work of historical fiction. Ms. Frank concludes this work by stating, "This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental." It's a good thing she reminds the reader that the book is a work of fiction. Ms. Frank so carefully weaves historical facts with her fictional threads in the story that it is impossible to ...more
Jane Hammons
The world of this novel is fascinating. It is real--a historical WWII setting--and it is imaginary--in the Compound of Scribes captives (who can translate a variety of languages) write letters to the dead so that they will keep their secrets about the Nazi plan for the Final Solution. While the compound provides some security for the captives (are we safe?--the constant question), it also imprisons them with the SS guards in a mineshaft built to look like a village. There is a world above the co ...more
Zoë Danielle
"Sometimes he liked to imagine that each star was a word, and the sky was a piece of paper. Then the stars unfurled into a phrase- a proclamation for just one night."

Heidegger's Glasses by Thaisa Frank takes place during World War II, as a group of Jews live underground in a converted mine, called the compound, as scribes, translating and answering letters written to the dead. These Jews were saved because of their knowledge of multiple languages, and as a result of the Third Reich's reliance
Nov 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Staci by: TLC Tour
Shelves: 2010-reads
Why I wanted to read this book: I was immediately captured by the original plot for this story. I like historical fiction and felt ready to read another book about the Holocaust and WWII.

What worked for me:

* The originality of the storyline really blew me away. I am totally amazed at how the author weaved this story to the point that she actually had me convinced that these letter writers existed.

* I think she captured how insane Hitler and his regime was and the affect that his actions had o
Dec 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this novel profoundly compelling and gorgeously conceived, written with great care and beauty. This band of "Scribes" in an underground Compound in northern Germany, deep in the woods, toward the end of World War II, have become part of my own imaginary now; they have moved into my heart and soul. Each character, especially the central two figures, who are lovers, is very real, and yet the whole world of the Scribes -- the world of the novel -- is touched with a kind of magic, which almo ...more
Jill Meyer
I've been tossing this book around in my mind since I finished it a few days ago. I could have given it anything from two to four stars. I really wish that Amazon would use a rating system of 5 and 4 Stars - positive, 3 Stars - neutral, and 2 and 1 Stars negative. If they had that system, I would have definitely given the book 3 stars and have been done with it. Because, that's how I ended up feeling about Thaisa Frank's book - "neutral".

I've read many books, both histories and novels, about the
I liked the main plot of the story but the nearly constant wordsrunningon without spaces on the kindle version made reading this absolutely tedious at times. Throw it in with some dry reading in small parts of the book, and you get the idea.
Roger Brunyate
Undelivered Letters

Writing a novel about the Holocaust is difficult because the terrible events are so well known as to numb readers with repetition. Writers wanting to evoke the horrors afresh must find ways of approaching them from unusual directions. Of these, one of the most risky—because on the face of it absurd—is through fantasy.* Though there have been successes. Roberto Benigni managed (almost) to write an Auschwitz comedy in his movie Life is Beautiful. Joseph Skibell called on Jewish
Nov 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I was reading Heidegger's Glasses, I thought to myself "I'm not really enjoying this as much as I think I should be". But I kept reading anyway and, when I put it down last night, I thought myself "Wow, that was pretty good." And really hard to explain.

Martin Heidegger was a German philosophy who plays a peripheral role in the story, but whose presence is always looming off stage. Early in the book, he writes about feeling like he's "fallen out of the world" and that's what this story really
Jan 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here I sit with furrowed brow pondering what to write about Heidegger's Glasses. I shouldn't have liked it but I did. I wish there had been more punctuation. Following conversations presented without enough commas and that helpful little thing writers do where they insert such bits as "Joe said" or "........,"muttered Leslie. Can be so confusing. But then I am rather stupid and hard to please. And I'll be darned if the story wasn't really cool even though half the time I wasn't sure who was spea ...more
Margaret Metz
I heard a lot of buzz about this book a couple years back and wanted to like the book, but I didn't. Some of it is just personal preference. This is a book that tends towards philosophy. It's more about ideas than about a story or about characters. I didn't feel connected to the characters as individuals -- they were more or less the same (or opposites) spouting ideas and thoughts throughout the book. The characters said almost the same things and you could have replaced one name for another wit ...more
Aug 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is really haunting. It is fiction - set in WWII - about a group of Jewish linguists who are kept in an underground bunker/city to write letters to the dead. Both Goebbels and Himmler were fascinated by the occult, and this book is based on the idea that it was important to the Nazis to have the letters that were written (often under coercion) from the concentration camps be answered, even though the original letter writers are long since dead.

The main characters - Elie Schachten, a wom
Girls Gone Reading
Dec 23, 2010 rated it liked it
One of the great things about Heidegger’s Glasses that no one in the novel is completely good or bad. Each of the main characters is forced to do things that he or she might normally have shunned. War does that to people, and Frank’s representation of life underground during World War II illustrates this beautifully.

Elie, the main character, intrigued me from the beginning. She is mysterious, secretive, and kind. Traveling the countryside, she saves people, but she loses more of herself in the p
Holly (2 Kids and Tired)
Some books just resonate with you, some don't. This one didn't move me at all. Historically, it sounds fascinating and it's certainly a different perspective from which to look at World War 2 and the Third Reich.

The writing style was surreal and philosophical and reminded me of something you might read in an advanced English class in school. I found the book difficult to follow and I was more confused than intrigued. Ultimately, I didn't have the time nor the energy that this book required of m
vacation read #8: not sure what to think about this. I question the historicity. Seems literature and pop fiction has a lot to say about Nazis and the occult, but it appears that most of it is very poorly sourced. This is no exception, although the author does make (sort of) clear that this entire story is just a fiction she made up in her own little mind.

Still wish it had more basis in fact. I've only been able to confirm what facts I already knew: Heidegger's existence, and the letters writte
I am very interested in the Holocaust and survivor stories. I knew that this was a work of fiction, but was ultimately disappointed in the small basis in fact. I was not aware that many prisoners were forced to write letters before they were gassed. Frank includes "letters" at the end of each chapter, but I have to assume that she made all of them up. The "letters" are the most interesting thing about the book. The rest of the novel dwells on a group of Jewish scribes that were supposed to answe ...more
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found this to be a lovely and incredibly sad book. Given the subject matter, that can’t be much of a surprise, but “Heidegger’s Glasses” looks at a slightly different aspect of World War II. The focus is more (though not completely) on the people who survived the Holocaust…while living on the razor’s edge of safety.

A Nazi officer sums up the constant fear of this small group of people living an unsure existence underground. “Every assurance of continuing could mean is just about to be shot.”

Vicki Moutoux
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

An interesting story that shows the personal impact of WWII on a group of might-have-been concentration camp residents who are saved for a secret Reich project and on those who are in charge of them.
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the last half of the book much better than the first half. The first half had me skimming some areas, due to not being involved in the story line.

I did like the philosophical aspect, and liked the somewhat surrealism of the story line.
Heidegger’s Glasses is a paradox. It addresses directly the atrocities of the Holocaust and yet it remains a light and even enjoyable read. The scenario is that the Nazi regime has arranged for a Compound of Scribes to write letters for the purpose of helping to cover-up the “Final Solution.” The Scribes are Jews who have been plucked from the death camps based on their language ability. The Compound occupies an abandoned mine underground. They are part of the underground in a very literal sense ...more
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
Heidegger's Glasses is a complex story set in Germany at the turning point of World War II, in 1943. The book is about Nazis setting up a program to answer letters of concentration camp victims, or the letters of the dead. They believe it's important because of the dead can 'rest' then Germany will win the war.

Basically all adults arriving at concentration camps had to send postcards home, praising their conditions and inviting their relatives to apply to join them. Those postcards were answere
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Getting into this story took a bit of doing but I found that I really liked and admired Elie Schacten and Gerhardt Lodenstein, the lovers, who are the key characters in this novel. Their goal is to save as many people as they can from the Nazis.

The book's premise is based on a program instituted by the Reich called Briefaktion, or Operation Mail. Jews who were taken to Auschwitz were required to write postcards or letters to home indicating that they were safe and well. Instead, these messages
Andrew Abruzzese
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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The fiction of Enchantment is Thaisa Frank’s third collection of short fiction and includes two semi-autobiographical novellas as well as thirty-three stories. Her most recent novel, Heidegger’s Glasses, takes place in the mythical haven of an underground mine during WWII, the safety of which is threatened forever. It was published in 2010, reissued in paperback in 2011 and sold to ten foreign cou ...more

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“Stay the night, said the officer, patting a confiscated couch. I'll keep my hands off you. I promise.

You have more than hands, said Elie.

My feet are safe, too, said the officer. He pointed to a hole in his boots, and they laughed.”
More quotes…