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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

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Wednesday 15 August 2007

Kressmann Taylor's Address Unknown

I've just reviewed Kressmann Taylor's 1938 classic Address Unknown over on The Book Depository:

Address Unknown is a highly moving and deeply troubling epistolary novella. It is an account of a friendship warped and destroyed in the years of Hitler's rise to power in the early 1930s. Martin Schulse has returned to Germany to pursue his business interests as an art dealer, his close (Jewish) friend, Max Eisenstein, remains in San Francisco running the Shulse-Eisenstein Gallery from the Californian end. After a couple of warm letters expressing their deep affection for one another, Max asks Martin to comment on the stories he has been hearing in the USA from Jews returning from the Continent: "I am in distress at the press reports that come pouring in to us from the Fatherland ... Write me, my friend, and set my mind at ease." Shockingly, Martin responds to Max neither with consolation nor affection, but with a request that their correspondence cease. Martin tries to explain himself, but it is clear he is in sympathy with what is going on in Germany. Worse comes: when Max's sister Griselle, an old flame of Martin's, is badly in need of help a shocking betrayal occurs. Martin has moved from being equivocal through being approving to becoming a Nazi zealot.

Profound and desperately moving, this tiny book (just 50 pages) packs a massive emotional punch. Kressmann Taylor (the pen name of Kathrine Kressmann) manages to explore the death of friendship consequent on the birth of a vicious ideology without ever becoming sentimental. Indeed, her book has very hard edges. This 1938 classic, which helped explain to America what was happening in the Germany of the day, is still an essential read.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Reader Comments

Monday 20 August 2007

Bud Parr says...

I found that book so moving, particularly knowing its prescience - glad to see it being kept alive.

Monday 01 October 2007

Julie says...

I just read it during a free period. I loved it! So good. Apparently The New York Times referred to it as a perfection and I think I can only agree. It's well written, easily accessible to anyone, and it unveils the truth of that era with intelligence and great insight. I love the dual point of view and the way it really depicted with honesty the harshness of the situation.
And I somehow felt relief though Max's bitter revenge.

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