2 November 2009

Kressmann Taylor, Address Unknown, 1938

A very brief and neat exposure of the realities of Nazism, written by an acutely aware observer in the distant US before the Second World War had even begun. Two German-American friends and art dealers, one a Jew, conduct some friendly correspondence after the other returns to Munich in 1933, where he then falls under the enchanting spell of Adolf Hitler. A small but tragic event follows in Munich which, suffice to say, ensures a brilliant response. There's not much else that can be said about Address Unknown without giving the game away. America was largely uninterested in what was going on in Germany at this time but over in Europe word spread about this short serialised work, ensuring it was copied and translated (Steinbeck’s excellent The Moon Is Down, written as anti-Nazi propaganda four years later, underwent a similar propagation), inevitably ending up on Germany’s list of banned books. The simplicity and potency of Taylor’s idea ensured her a large and immediate readership, then after the war was over it was largely forgotten until its reissue in 1995 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps. Another interesting aspect is the vehement rejection of liberalism which broadly echoes some of the same criticism you hear from the American far right today. Certainly one of the better 30-minute reads I have had this year.  PY


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