Heidegger's Glasses

Heidegger's Glasses

by Thaisa Frank


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781582437194
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Publication date: 11/01/2010
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 8.64(w) x 11.64(h) x 1.30(d)

About 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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Heidegger's Glasses 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
DGGass More than 1 year ago
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.
karieh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this to be a lovely and incredibly sad book. Given the subject matter, that can¿t be much of a surprise, but ¿Heidegger¿s Glasses¿ looks at a slightly different aspect of World War II. The focus is more (though not completely) on the people who survived the Holocaust¿while living on the razor¿s edge of safety.A Nazi officer sums up the constant fear of this small group of people living an unsure existence underground. ¿Every assurance of continuing could mean is just about to be shot.¿Due to a superstitious element of the Nazi party, a group of translators is collected and sent into an underground world to translate and then answer letters to the dead. This world below the earth is nearly as implausible compared to normal human life as the world above. Below, there is a cobblestone street, a small house, a sky that changes from morning to night¿all as part of a mine shaft. Above, there is mass murder, constant fear and deprivation, and inhuman treatment of entire populations.One of the main characters, Elie, is a part of both worlds. She is both incredibly strong and unbelievably fragile, able to externally adapt to both worlds, but not without constantly being wounded inside. . ¿Elie scanned without reading ¿ her only purpose was to identify the language. She tried to ignore her sense of revulsion ¿ never pausing to look at the name of the writer or what they¿d written. Sometimes, when she was trying to fall asleep, she saw phrases from these letters ¿ hurried, terrified lies, extolling the conditions in the camps. But when she scanned them quickly, she noticed nothing ¿ except when she saw the enormous bag marked A, for Auschwitz. It was not only bigger than the other mailbags but seemed larger than anything this world could contain, as if it had fallen from another universe.¿All of these characters as compelling ¿ but Elie was the one that haunted me the most after finishing the book. Appropriately, the focus of so many books about this horrible war focus on the deaths and the losses. I don¿t see as much written about those who survived the war intact in body, but certainly not in spirit. These people tried to maintain some semblance of normal life, either for their children or for their loved ones, or in a desperate attempt to maintain their sanity for when the war ended, if it ended. And all of them found different ways to survive, to try and keep their humanity intact.¿The lemonade reminded Lodenstein of summer, and he wished he could slip back into a summer childhood, where the only evidence of war was trenches he built with his friends. At dinner, his mother had fits about his muddy shoes, and his father tried to convince him that deciphering codes was far more exciting than battle. But he couldn¿t slip away into anything because the past three weeks felt ground into his body like glass.¿The characters who lived to see the of the war are very different people than they were at the beginning. Too much that never should have happened; that human beings should never experience or do to one another has taken place.¿Elie couldn¿t stop staring at Asher¿s face while he sat on the cobblestone street, staring at the pretend sky. It didn¿t look like a real face, but grey skin stretched over bones, an assemblage of angles and hollows, a vehicle for exhaustion and starvation ¿ but not a face. The skin stretched over it was taut. The flesh beneath it was gone. His eyes were the only thing that seemed alive. Yet she could see everything in that face, as if his entire life were etched in the lines. She could sense every gunshot he¿d heard at Auschwitz, every moment he¿d seen people die, every day he¿d lived in terror.¿These characters, and the plaintive cries of the letters they read and answer, cry out to be remembered. Remembered to those they love and lost, and remembered in order that their experiences are never replicated.¿The conversation with the dead goes on forever¿¿ And so should stories l
DanaBurgess on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
'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.
ReviewsbyMolly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How does one go about writing a review of a book that both intrigued them, and confused them? This is going to be awkward, I'm sure. The writing style of Thaisa Frank is fantastic,that is for sure. She really did a great job on her research and created a novel that is well worth the time to read. However, that being said, I was often confused by the happenings in the story. Does that mean it's not a good book? Absolutely not. I was one in high school, to always get confused on the history aspect of wars, and the concentration camps (perhaps that was why I always had D's in that class?), so I was interested in seeing if I could read about them in a fiction novel, maybe being written in a form I so love, I would understand them better. Boy, was I wrong! But, I still enjoyed reading the story. It is really philosophical and is truly full of deeper meaning. Frank creates this novel with deep emotion. She really gives a history lesson on life during the Holocaust and the camps that were set up, along with the letters written to loved ones or people of closeness to the author of the letters. It was very interesting to learn the things that Elie did during that awful era. There were times that I thought, wow. What would it have been like to have been Elie? I honestly don't think I could have survived that era in one piece or with my sanity still intact.The love story of the book was also interesting to me. Why? Well, during a time like that I just don't think that I would have found the time to have a love in my life. I would have been to busy worrying about what was happening all around me. And for it to be with some like Elie chose??? Hmmm...I really think that she could have chose someone else as her love interest but I suppose that the story would not have been at all the same. Again, I must say that Frank used wonderful research to create this fictional story of the actual Mr. Heidegger in Heidegger's Glasses,along with the letter to his optometrist. She made me feel both confused and intrigued, as I said above, because she really gripped me with her words and thoughts that she penned into this story, leaving me with a haunting vision of life in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Wow! I was confused, because I just can't come to terms with something as horrific as the Holocaust and the camps and the way people were treated. I mean, how can some one, even during a war, treat these people like that?! WOW!Do I recommend this book to everyone? No, I do not, if you solely read Christian novels. There is use of language, however, knowing that before going into the story made it easier for me to read, so if you have a problem with language in books, please, this book would not be for you. I recommend this book ONLY if you want to learn more about a difficult place in history. I recommend it ONLY if you are interested in reading things about the Holocaust and the concentration camps.I recommend it ONLY if you have an open heart to understand more about this subject. Do I recommend it with high praises? Oh yea. Frank did a fantastic job at creating an intriguing, gripping, mysterious 4 star novel. Well done, Thaisa!
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Phenicia_Barimen More than 1 year ago
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.
LetsBookIt More than 1 year ago
'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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Ausonius More than 1 year ago
Thaisa Frank, author of HEIDEGGER'S GLASSES, does not, on any URL I have been able to find about her, list among her literary influences either Sir Walter Scott or James Fenimore Cooper. But conscious or not, their influence is there. Put otherwise: Thaisa Frank builds with elements created by Sir Walter in the first historical novel, WAVERLEY (1814) and displayed in Cooper's mystical sea novel, THE WATER-WITCH; or, THE SKIMMER OF THE SEAS (1830). ***** For HEIDEGGER'S GLASSES is an historical novel in the tradition of WAVERLEY. In that tradition launched by Sir Walter Scott, such a novel is set at a turning point in world history (Bonnie Prince Charlie's Scottish rising of 1745-46, HEIDEGGER'S GLASSES's final years of Hitler's THIRD REICH, etc.). Following Scott, Frank makes her fictional little people interact with historical giants, especially Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels (1897 - 1945) and philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889 - 1976). ***** Like James Fenimore Cooper in his tales of Europe, the North American wilderness and of sea adventure, Thaisa Frank takes superstitions and folk beliefs seriously, and shows how major figures in the Nazi movement did, too. Josef Goebbels, in the novel, stands critically apart from his master Hitler and his rival Himmler in that respect. In THE WATER-WITCH, Cooper cloaks a mysterious smuggling vessel in magic and oracular wisdom easily accepted by sailors around 1712. Ms Frank does much the same for those circles around and including Hitler who believed in seances, prophecy and the arcane. ***** Don't read HEIDEGGER'S GLASSES for 100% historical accuracy, especially chronology of events, or for precise English translations of presumably fictional letters written in various languages by Jews and others snatched off for extermination by the SS and the Gestapo. Rather immerse yourself luxuriously in the time from just after Germany's first major defeat, (Stalingrad February 1943), through the end of World War II in Europe and finally, briefly, a further 60 years to New York City and a daughter/granddaughter of survivors of Hitler, Zoe-Eleanor Englehardt. ***** You may wonder why the novel's heroine Elie Schacten nee Kowaleski could rustle up just about any thing she wanted from protective Nazis keeping a negligent eye on her underground madhouse of letter writers but never thought to ask them for a short-wave radio. In some ways, HEIDEGGER'S GLASSES takes place in a parallel universe of Thaisa Frank's imagination. But hers is a universe worth knowing and pondering nor without slants of insight for America and Europe in 2010. ***** I enjoyed the novel. I read it with few interruptions in about three hours. The characters are three-dimensional. Unlike a few semi-gothic tales of Walter Scott and Fenimore Cooper, the element of hidden or masked identity of characters is very light in HEIDEGGER'S GLASSES. This is not a detective or mystery novel. For the most part the narrative proceeds linearly with few albeit enlightening flash backs. I had never heard of author Thaisa Frank before this book fell into my hands. She has other published works. And now I would like to give them a try, too. -OOO-