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Written while Hans Keilson was in hiding during World War II, The Death of the Adversary is the self-portrait of a young man 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 power but also in its hero’s attempt to discover logic where none exists. A psychological fable as wry and haunting as Badenheim 1939, The Death of the Adversary is a lost classic of modern fiction.
“Since Adolf Hitler, an outpouring of writing has tried to explain the violence that human beings do to one another . . . Perhaps the profoundest explanation to date comes from the pen of a Jewish writer driven from Germany in 1936 and now living in Holland. Hans Keilson’s novel subtly and eloquently probes the ambivalent relation of victim with aggressor . . . Keilson traces the growth of hatred in his leading character as other writers trace love or self-knowledge.”—Time, Best Books of 1962
“A welcome reissue of a classic . . . This psychologically subtle and acute account of denial in the face of Hitler’s rise to power received strong acclaim before disappearing from print. With the celebration last year of the 100th birthday of Keilson . . . the novel has lost none of its insidious power . . . The narrative recalls the existential depth of Camus and the fabulist absurdity of Kafka or Beckett.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The power of the unsaid haunts this devastating novel . . . A profoundly affecting exploration of the inextricable nature of love and hate, friend and enemy, Keilson’s work . . . is as stimulating today as it was half a century ago.”—Publishers Weekly
Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Hans Keilson's novel The Death of the Adversary.