Life Goes On A Novel

Hans Keilson; Translated from the German by Damion Searls

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

272 Pages



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Published when the author was just twenty-three, Life Goes On was Hans Keilson's literary debut, an extraordinary autobiographical novel that paints a dark yet illuminating portrait of Germany between the world wars. It is the story of Herr Seldersen—a Jewish store owner modeled on Keilson's father, a textile merchant and decorated World War I veteran—along with his wife and son, Albrecht, and the troubles they encounter as the German economy collapses and politics turn rancid.

The book was banned by the Nazis in 1934. Shortly afterward, following his editor's advice, Keilson emigrated to the Netherlands, where he would spend the rest of his life.

Life Goes On is an essential volume for readers of Keilson's later work. At the age of one hundred, with his one copy of the first edition of Life Goes On in hand, Keilson told The New York Times that he would love to see his first novel reissued, and translated as well. "Then you would have my whole biography," he told them. He died at the age of one hundred and one.


Praise for Life Goes On

"Life Goes On is an important and heartbreaking novel, and not only because it lets us hear the power of Keilson's young voice just before it was silenced for more than a decade. The book also lets us relive and understand, a little, the anguish and confusion from which a madman emerged as chancellor. Moreover, as grim as the material is, the prose is a pleasure. Keilson has a lovely, easy style, a gentle tone and an analytic mind. He depicts complicated human interactions with a precocious mastery of nuance and full comprehension of what can't be said. He was so young, and such a natural. We should have had more than just three short novels from Hans Keilson"—Judith Shulevitz, The New York Times Book Review

"Stunningly accomplished and self-assured for such a young writer his novel, published initially in 1933 when Keilson was in his early 20s, gives a haunting portrait of Germany between the two world wars . . . Both methodical and acutely sensitive, this book is a wonderful achievement."—Publishers Weekly

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Read an Excerpt

The landlord walked into the store. He was fat and moved with the gestures of a woman.
"I would very much like to speak with you, Herr Seldersen," he said pompously.
Father was sitting behind the counter by the shop window, reading. That is...

Read the full excerpt


  • Hans Keilson; Translated from the German by Damion Searls

  • 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.

  • Hans Keilson ©JURGEN BAUER