Sunday, February 13, 2011

Book Review : Address Unknown - Kressman Taylor 10*

This is an astonishing little book, first published on the eve of World War 2 in 1938, Taylor's story was based on the letters that German American students were writing home warning of the danger of Hitler and of the atrocities already taking place in pre-war Germany.

The novel is entirely written as letters between two men, Max, the Jewish part owner of a successful art gallery, and Martin, his friend and partner who has returned home to Germany with his family.  At first the letters between the two friends are warm and happy, but Martin begins to write of the National Socialist movement in glowing terms, and an unpleasant and frightening thread of anti-Semetism becomes his norm.

Martin asks Max not to write any more, saying that even receiving letters from Jew could put him and his family in danger, but Max begs for help when his sister vanishes when touring Austria and Germany with her theatre troupe.  Martin's eventual reply is heartbreaking for Max, but it does not stop him writing to his former friend.  Instead, he uses a series of letters as a weapon against the man who has betrayed him.

For such a short work, this novel packs a devastating punch, Taylor's style is sparse but her words are chosen to powerful effect and the way in which Max carries out his revenge is wonderfully crafted.  Kressman's book was an instant success upon publication, tellingly it was banned in Germany and the Dutch edition was confiscated by the Nazi's upon the invasion of Holland.

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