A tiny book with a BIG punch!
I found the slender little book ( I believe the English version is only 54 pages long!) in Hebrew among my late father’s books. As a rule, I don’t read books in Hebrew that were translated from English (or vice versa) but I am fascinated by literary uses of letters and I did it have it right there in my hand…
This book is interesting in so many ways.
It’s constructed as an exchange of letters between two best friends and business partners, who originally immigrated from Germany to the United States. One of the partners, Martin, decides to return to Berlin with his family, in 1933, while his dear Jewish friend Max remains in San Francisco. They need to correspond because of their shared business and they want to correspond because they miss each other.
Their early letters begin by letting us in on their shared background and strong connection.
But then the letters change. The rise of Nazism and all that goes with it comes into sharper and sharper relief through the letters as Martin adopts the rhetoric of the new movement and regime.
THEN something happens.
THEN the letters become something much more than letters!
I won’t spoil it for you. I read it in an hour and that’s because I read more slowly in Hebrew.
This little book is also very interesting because of its back story.
Kressman Taylor isn’t the real name of the author in the usual sense. The publishers of Story Magazine in 1938 thought that such a powerful tale and such an important message would be far less effective with a woman’s name on the byline. Therefore the name Katherin was scrapped and her maiden name and last name were used.
The story was an incredible sensation, reprinted by the Reader’s Digest and then published as a book.
Sadly, the book is every bit as important to read today as it was all those years ago.
Absolutely worth reading!