Published when the author was just twenty-three,Life Goes Onis an autobiographical novel that paints a dark portrait of Germany between the world wars. It tells the story of Max Seldersen a Jewish store owner modeled on Keilson's father, a textile merchant and decorated World War I veteran along with his wife, Else, 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 Onis an essential volume for fans of Keilson'sComedy in a Minor KeyandThe Death of the Adversary. At the age of one hundred, with his one copy of the first edition ofLife Goes Onin hand, he toldThe New York Timeshe would love to see his first novel reissued and translated, too. Then you would have my whole biography, he told them. He died at the age of one hundred and one.
Stunningly accomplished and self-assured for such a young writer this novel, published initially in 1933 when Keilson was in his early 20s, gives a haunting portrait of Germany between the two world wars. The Seldersens have a small clothing shop, which they've owned for 25 years. Now the economy is awful and business extremely slow. Their solemn and studious son, Albrecht, is 16. Albrecht's friend, Fritz, is the opposite: physically strong, a fine athlete with an outgoing personality; his father, a plumber, has been working since the age of 14. Both Fritz's parents and Albrecht's are determined that their sons have everything needed for a brilliant future. But the future is in doubt for just about everyone. Hundreds of workers at a local factory lose their jobs because of a fire. The economy is dreadful not just locally but everywhere. Debt and worry take a heavy toll on the Seldersens, and they, like the others around them, feel an overwhelming sense of shame. Meanwhile, Albrecht goes off to university in Berlin while Fritz grows increasingly despairing as he tries to find his way among the diminished opportunities around him in an atmosphere where there was "powerful, deadly exhaustion in the air." Both methodical and acutely sensitive, this book is a wonderful achievement. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Farrar, Straus & Giroux
October 30, 2012
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