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Mendelssohn Is on the Roof
     

Mendelssohn Is on the Roof

by Jiri Weil, Marie Winn (Translator)
 

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On the roof of Prague's concert hall, Julius Schlesinger, aspiring SS officer, is charged with the removal of the statue of the Jew Mendelssohn—but which one is he? Remembering his course on "racial science," Schlesinger instructs his men to pull down the statue with the biggest nose. Only as the statue topples does he recognize the face of Richard Wagner.

Overview

On the roof of Prague's concert hall, Julius Schlesinger, aspiring SS officer, is charged with the removal of the statue of the Jew Mendelssohn—but which one is he? Remembering his course on "racial science," Schlesinger instructs his men to pull down the statue with the biggest nose. Only as the statue topples does he recognize the face of Richard Wagner. This is just the beginning in Weil's novel, which traces the transformation of ordinary liveds in Nazi-occupied Prague.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Originally published in Czech in 1960, this novel by the author of Life with a Star is a fierce and mocking portrayal of ordinary lives as they are changed by the presence of the Nazis in occupied Prague. When top-level Nazi Reinhard Heydrich attends a performance of Don Giovanni at Prague's concert hall, he is not only disturbed by the vengeance of the Commendatore's statue in Mozart's opera, but by the sight of a statue of the composer Mendelssohn (who was born a Jew, but converted to Christianity) atop the roof of the hall. He orders it removed. But the hapless low-level minions whose task this becomes cannot identify Mendelssohn's likeness amongst the rooftop statuary. In a series of biting ironies, Weil, who died in 1959, takes us on a guided tour of the hearts and minds of both victims and persecutors. Images of statues are abundant throughout the text, from an enormous Moses being hauled into storage to the tragic paralysis of a Jewish doctor to this musing on the part of the infamous Heydrich: ``Knowing the secret of the Final Solution means invisible power. It means standing high above all people and looking down on them in scornful safety, like a statue. It means being made of stone or bronze. . . . '' Perhaps shriller in tone than Primo Levi, this insistent and important novel of the Holocaust is more than a manifesto; it is also literature. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Prague withers under the boot of Nazi occupation. The Acting Reich Protector cruises the city, taking pleasure in its deserted streets, feeling like one with the marshal statues, and suddenly becomes offended by the statue of Mendelssohn atop a building. The Jewish composer must be removed. Meanwhile, the real Jews of Prague are rounded up, the lucky ones sent to a ghetto, the unlucky ones sent east into the unknown. Of course, they are all unlucky, eventually, from the innocent to the collaborators, and even those in the resistance who try to hide their countrypeople from the crushing progress of the ``Final Solution.'' Weil, himself a death camp survivor, writes an unblinking portrait of the Prague he knew. The many characters humanize an inhuman world and make personal the broader struggle of death and hatred.-- Paul E. Hutchison, Pequea, Pa.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374208103
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
04/12/1991
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
228
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

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