Life Goes On

Life Goes On

Published when the author was just twenty-three, Life Goes On was Hans Keilson's literary debut, an extraordinary autobiographical novel that paints a dark yet illuminating portrait of Germany between the world wars.

At the age of one hundred, with his one copy of the first edition of Life Goes On in hand, Keilson told The New York Times that he would love to see his first novel reissued, and translated as well.

"Then you would have my whole biography," he told them.

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Life Goes On is the literary equivalent of a boa constrictor, winding its way around its characters and slowly tightening around them while onlookers (the readers) are unable to stop or slow the events. The depth of understanding he shows for the human psyche is extraordinary, especially given his young age when he wrote Life Goes On. This book is not only important as a literary work, but also as a historical document of a terrifying and desolate time in human history. In telling his story, Dr. Keilson allows readers to glimpse at the powerlessness of ordinary citizens, unable to fight or even escape what was happening to them. To borrow a book title: this is, indeed, a heartbreaking work of staggering genius and, for all it has emotionally drained me over the last month (frankly, Ive gone through break ups that left me less emotionally exhausted than this book), Im glad I took the time to both read and finish Life Goes On. Its not a happy book or an easy book or a perfect book, but its an important book, and Im glad its getting, several decades later, the attention it deserves.

In the words of the late author Hans Keilson (as per the afterword), this book tells the story of an independent small businessman and his economic downfall, set in the political, social, and economic upheaval of the years after the First World War, the period of the Weimar Republic, the hyperinflation, and the rise of National Socialism.

Dit merkt ook de vader van Albrecht, meneer Seldersen die een winkel heeft met kleding, fournituren e.d. Doordat zijn klanten steeds minder te besteden hebben, kan ook meneer Seldersen zijn schuldeisers maar nauwelijks betalen. Albrecht gaat ook naar Berlijn, maar komt daar nauwelijks aan studeren toe omdat hij ook moet bijverdienen.

(though without the humor of the latter).

Keilson's highly-autobiographical novel -- published when he was just 23-years-old in 1933 and burned by the Nazis a year later -- is the story of one small family of merchants being slowly squeezed into financial ruin by the economic downfall in Germany between the wars. Indeed, the novel ends with Albrecht and his father continuing to struggle in Berlin, but finally acknowledging the need for solidarity with workers, as opposed to going-it-alone in the spirit of independent entrepreneurship, which had only succeeded in isolating the family from their community as everyone's finances sink. Not of people." Keilson shows us that books can only go so far in preserving memory.

The Seldersens--father, mother, and teenage son Albrecht--are owners of a small shop in a small (unnamed) German town at the end of the 1920s during the economic collapse and unemployment of that era. Herr Seldersen sees fewer and fewer customers in his shop, and those that do come in have to be allowed to buy on credit, when its obvious that their debts are unlikely ever to be repaid in full because the hard times are dragging almost everyone in his circle down.

Hans Keilson is the author of Comedy in a Minor Key and The Death of the Adversary.

  • English

  • Fiction

  • Rating: 3.46
  • Pages: 272
  • Publish Date: October 30th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Isbn10: 0374191956
  • Isbn13: 9780374191955