Heidegger's Glasses

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Overview

Heidegger’s Glasses opens during the end of World War II in a failing Germany coming apart at the seams. The Third Reich’s strong reliance on the occult and its obsession with the astral plane has led to the formation of an underground compound of scribes—translators responsible for answering letters written to those eventually killed in the concentration camps.

Into this covert compound comes a letter written by eminent philosopher Martin Heidegger to his optometrist, who is ...

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Heidegger's Glasses: A Novel

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Overview

Heidegger’s Glasses opens during the end of World War II in a failing Germany coming apart at the seams. The Third Reich’s strong reliance on the occult and its obsession with the astral plane has led to the formation of an underground compound of scribes—translators responsible for answering letters written to those eventually killed in the concentration camps.

Into this covert compound comes a letter written by eminent philosopher Martin Heidegger to his optometrist, who is now lost in the dying thralls of Auschwitz. How will the scribes answer this letter? The presence of Heidegger’s words—one simple letter in a place filled with letters—sparks a series of events that will ultimately threaten the safety and well-being of the entire compound.

Part love story, part thriller, part meditation on how the dead are remembered and history presented, with threads of Heidegger’s philosophy woven throughout, the novel evocatively illustrates the Holocaust through an almost dreamlike state. Thaisa Frank deftly reconstructs the landscape of Nazi Germany from an entirely original vantage point.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Heidegger’s Glasses

"A tour de force whose imagery haunts the reader long after the final page is turned." —Jim Moret, author of The Last Day of My Life

“This is stunning work, full of mystery and strange tenderness. Thaisa Frank has written one of the most compelling stories of the Nazi regime since D. M. Thomas’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It is a book that will haunt you.” —Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply

“Frank’s vision of the Holocaust is original and startling, with compelling characters and a narrative that’s both explosive and ponderous.”—Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“A spellbinding, innovative, intellectually compelling tour-de-force. Thaisa Frank’s imagination is boundless: she enchants and horrifies and moves us, often on the same page.” —Michelle Huneven, author of Blame

Publishers Weekly
In her debut novel, Frank (A Brief History of Camouflage) presents a slightly fantastic tale of WWII, concerning an underground German bunker where multi-lingual intellectuals, spared the concentration camps, spend the war answering letters sent to concentration camp inmates who are, in all likelihood, already dead; called the Compound of Scribes, its mission is part record-keeping, part supernatural insurance plan, meant to keep the spirits of the dead from tipping off psychics to the Nazi's Final Solution. Despite their absurd (and potentially confusing) orders, the 50-some Scribes live in relative peace under the supervision of Elie and Gerhardt, lovers secretly working for the Resistance. Then a daunting task comes down from Goebbels himself--answer a letter from genius philosopher Martin Heidegger to his friend and optometrist Asher Englehardt, a prisoner in Auschwitz--setting events in motion that will threaten the lives of everyone in the compound. Taking readers to a curiously polyglot netherworld, a population removed from the horrors of the Reich even as it deals in some of its most intimate dispatches, Frank's vision of the Holocaust is original and startling, with compelling characters and a narrative that's both explosive and ponderous. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582437194
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2010
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 8.64 (w) x 11.64 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Thaisa Frank is the recipient of two PEN awards, and her two most recent story collections were nominated for the Bay Area Book Reviewer’s Association Award. She has taught writing in the graduate department of San Francisco State University, is on the part-time faculty at the University of San Francisco, and has been Visiting Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

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2 Star

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 11 of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 24, 2011

    Great concept, just fell a little short

    Sometimes, in war, you do what you must to survive. For the scribes in an out-of-the-way compound in a forest in Nazi Germany, it was Hitler's and Himmler's obsession with the occult and the scribes ability to speak another language,that saved them from the notorious death camps. Their orders were to respond to the letters written by the dead. Supervising the scribes is Elie Schacten, a woman who has won favor with Joseph Goebbels, as well as many of the SS officers in the compound and outlying post. That she had been able to achieve these favors, not only allows her to provide for the scribes, but also allows her to move about freely to help move fugitives to safety.

    When a letter arrives for philospher Martin Heidegger, who is very much alive and living under the protection of the Third Reich, sent to his friend, Asher Englehart, who is a prisoner in Auschwitz, the scribes are under orders to respond to Heidegger as Englehart would have. The reason for the unsigned order by Goebbels, that Heidegger wouldn't find out about the death camps. To be delivered with the letter, a pair of eye glasses that were made by Englehart for Heidegger.

    To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about Thaisa Frank's "Heideggers Glasses". The concept, research and even writing style itself were excellent. While the story itself was deep and could be thought provoking, the characters seemed a little too matter of fact, too detached and conveyed very little substantial emotions to me as the reader. Even with a strong plot, the story itself was unmemorable. I wasn't left haunted by the characters, nor was I compelled to "not put it down".

    On a side note, I was reading this on an e-reader. Sprinkled through the story are imposed letters, translated into English. At first the letters were different and intriguing, but eventually became a distraction in the flow.

    In the end, I can't say that I didn't like "Heidegger's Glasses", however, despite the concept, it fell short of having me love it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    This is an odd take on Externalists fiction as is seen in such w

    This is an odd take on Externalists fiction as is seen in such works as the Unbearable Lightness of Being. Where this diverts a bit from Unbearable Lightness is that it leans very heavily upon the events of World War II where Kundera’s book can pick and fit in to any worldview of those that pick it up.

    This is something that you’re not going to see the whole picture or where things are going to fall into place until the end of the book. This isn’t your normal fiction; this isn’t even your normal fiction about what life was like in World War II – you will get bits and pieces of this it is there as flavor not the focus of the book.

    These are people that are doing what they have to for survival, and you can see early on that Elie and the SS in charge of the scribes are at odds with each other but together in that way that opposites attract. In such become the polar opposites of the life in lightness and weight one with constant hope with the war and the other the weight of responsibility. The difference from Kundera is they are not stuck in their though processes on the matter but keep switching back and forth throughout the book as the different challenges of life throw them into perspective. This starts a bit before the letter from Heidegger and then the different acts of the war that the Compound of Scribes ends up facing shows this affecting not just Elie and her lover but the whole Compound which is made up of intellectuals thrown together in the middle of the war.

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  • Posted October 20, 2011

    Haunting and compelling

    'Heidegger's Glasses' by Thaisa Frank is a book for those of you that love WWII novels - and those that don't. This is Ms Frank's first full length novel and she has done an amazing job! The characters are well developed and the plot is well thought out and written. There were times, in the story when the tension was palpable and times when I was blown away by the resilience of characters who could make good times even in the middle of hell. My favorite part was the 'letters from the dead' scattered throughout the book. They really added that extra punch to, and created the perfect atmosphere for, the story.

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