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In de ban van de tegenstander

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  581 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
‘Hij en ik waren in elkaars gezichtveld gekomen, wij hadden met elkaar te maken. ... wij waren aan elkaar verbonden met de sterke banden van vijandschap op leven en dood.’

Het is net na de tweede wereldoorlog. Een advocaat vraagt een kennis om een hem tijdens de oorlog in bewaring gegeven manuscript te lezen. Het blijkt het verhaal van een naamloze jongeman in een niet nad
Paperback, 239 pages
Published September 2010 by Van Gennep (first published 1959)
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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 Francine Prose del NYT, capolavoro sia una parola che andrebbe usata con più parsimonia. E anche genio è termine un po’ abusato, dovrebbe stare più attenta a simili esagerazioni tipicamente giornalistiche.

A me sembra che, nonostante le magnifiche e importanti intenzioni
Mar 25, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spurned, feces
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
Jim Fonseca
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ans Luiken
Feb 04, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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.
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
Dec 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Dec 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 06, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Oct 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cuando acabas con un libro lleno de notas y post-its, es que hay muchos fragmentos destacables y eso siempre es bueno.

Si buscas un ensayo interesante, con aspectos que podrían ser de novela, ésta es una buena opción.
Frank Debaere
Dec 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Zie recensie in De Morgen 1-12-2010.
Aug 07, 2010 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Great review in the NYT on this author.
Sep 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Oct 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ben Dutton
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Rebecca Reddell
Sep 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Death of the Adversary is a heartwrenching account of how one man's rise to power created an authentic adversary. Human being pitted against human being. Hans Keilson's main character takes on the role of mediator. His fresh perspective gives readers a new frame of mind to look at a horrendous time in history. Although the adversary is never named, the reference is unmistakable.

This story is a unique and somewhat hard twist to read. The MC looks at his adversary's rise to power through the
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
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was very ambivalent about this book. Most of it consists of the thoughts of a young man, presumably Jewish, musing about his "adversary," a powerful leader, presumably Hitler, who is demonizing the group to which the narrator belongs. I say "presumably" because no actual names or identifying characteristics are explicitly stated in the story. Instead, the narrator employs initials or other vague references. The device is explained as a means of minimizing risk, but I got the impression that th ...more
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
“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
Jul 31, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A first person narrative about the relationship -- really the perceived relationship -- between two mortal adversaries, an attacker & the victim, from the victim's perspective. In this case, the "victim" is a young Jewish man in 1930's Germany, and the attacker is apparently Adolph Hitler. Probably the most fascinating section of the book is the narrator's conversation with another (presumably Jewish) friend. There he posits that Hitler may be a "scourge" inflicted on the Jews by God, so you ...more
Jun 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
So utterly German and psychoanalytic that it was almost unreadable BUT was reading it for class so pushed thru. A portrait of the internal vacillations of a German Jew during the rise of Hitler, the narrator manages to delude himself for most of the book. He finally realizes however that it's not an academic exercise that Hitler accuses the Jews of this, that and everything. They're not merely friendly adversaries, they're enemies. Perhaps many people felt, like this writer, that it couldn't be ...more
Keilson's way of dealing with what everybody knows in a subtle manner is quite fascinating. There are no names, except some first names, and no places mentioned, and yet you know exactly what and who he is talking about.
I suppose it is a bit slow, and sometimes tedious to get through a page, but trust me, getting to the end it worth it.
The book, and writing, is shrouded by the dark looming presence of the adversary as one man tries to weave his way through life, while facing his fears and dealin
Sep 16, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This psychological fable about a young man growing up in Germany in the 1930's, watching Hitler's rise to power, is quite dark. The idea behind the title is that, in some way, the the hunted victim needs the hunter to define his life. When the hunter dies, life loses some of its meaning for the main character. This ambivalent relation of victim with agressor was not convincing. It was a short book, so I kept on reading, but I wish I hadn't started. Maybe someone with better psychological insight ...more
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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
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“I always knew that words are suitcases with false bottoms.” 5 likes
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