Address Unknown by K. Kressman Taylor – Brilliant

October 21, 2019 Leave a comment Go to comments

Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressman Taylor. (1939) French title: Inconnu à cette adresse. Translator : No mentioned. (Grrr…)

Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressman Taylor is a slim epistolary novella. It is the correspondence between two friends, Max and Martin who are art traders and own a gallery together in America. They start writing to each other when Martin moves back to Germany with his wife in 1932.

Max is Jewish and their relationship gets strained when the Nazis take power in Germany. They slowly grow apart as Martin is swept over by the dictatorship in his country.

In a few exchange of letters from 1932 to 1934, Kathrine Kressman Taylor shows how things drift away, one small event after the other and how someone slowly turns his back to who he was as the politics around him indoctrinate him.

She demonstrates how a lethal ideology takes over the mind of a normal man, how he can be led to the unthinkable and how hard it is for a friend to witness this transformation.

This is a powerful read, wrapped up in a seemingly innocent correspondence but it says it all. Step by step, that’s how ordinary people got sucked into the horror. It was published in 1939. It was a warning to the world.

Highly recommended, especially to adolescents.

  1. October 21, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    I like the sound of this. I wonder where it was first published, surely not in Germany at that time…

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  2. October 21, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    Ooooh, sounds compelling… especially nowadays.

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    • October 22, 2019 at 9:15 pm

      Yes. Something to read along with the children.

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  3. October 22, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    The plot sounds very familiar to me, yet I don’t remember reading the story. According to Wikipedia it was filmed in 1944, directed by William Cameron Menzies, but I don’t recall seeing that, either. Must be my age. As others have said, it sounds like an intriguing story with a powerful message.

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    • October 22, 2019 at 9:20 pm

      I don’t remember seeing any reviews of it.
      It’s published in a school edition here, it must me a possible read for students in middle school.

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  4. October 22, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    Agreed – it is brilliant. I’ve read it a couple of times and it’s extremely powerful – and yet worryingly still relevant.

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    • October 22, 2019 at 9:21 pm

      It’s a direct, simple way to make the reader feel and understand how things went wrong.
      It’s extremely well done, not sentencious and yet a perfect demonstration of the point she wants to make.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. October 22, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    Thanks for posting on this Emma. By chance, I posted about it yesterday, too. The scary part for me wasn’t just watching Martin’s change—that was to be expected as he was caught up in the moment. It was what Max was capable of doing to Martin. Who know what each of us is capable of doing when we feel justified in our actions?

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    • October 23, 2019 at 10:56 pm

      Can you leave the link to your review? I want to read it.
      I don’t know what’s worse between the two courses of action.
      One lives in a threatening environment and the other is safe.
      And yet the betrayal is terrible.
      I really think that none of knows what we’re capable of doing when put in certain circumstances. We need to live with the idea that there’s this part of ourselves that is scary and that we’d rather not test.

      And of course, if you forget the context, there’s always the question “is an eye for an eye the best course of action when someone hurts you?”

      It’s amazing how thought proving it is and how much she put in a few pages.

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  6. October 23, 2019 at 2:49 am

    The French translator is Michèle Lévy-Bram. It’s right under the title in the kindle book

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    • October 23, 2019 at 10:57 pm

      Thanks I couldn’t find it on my paper edition.

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  7. October 27, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    Excellent review! The book is very easy to read and rather short, and yet it shows deep inside not only in how easily normal and otherwise decent people « adapted » quickly to the ideology of Nazism. I agree to what was already said in the comments that the even more shocking part for me was what Max did to his former friend. Strongly recommended! My own review: http://www.mytwostotinki.com/?p=2368

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    • October 27, 2019 at 9:53 pm

      Thanks. I thought this was a stunning novella, spot on without lecturing the reader.

      Excellent review, btw.

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  8. December 6, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    I wrote about this at mine (here – https://pechorinsjournal.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/addressant-unbekannt/) and it was nice to be reminded of it. It is very good, stunning as you say. I agree it would be good for adolescents but certainly not just for them.

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    • December 6, 2019 at 4:43 pm

      Great post, thanks for the link.
      This book will stay with me. It’s such a clever way to show how people get indoctrinated.
      My edition is a school edition and I like that students study it.

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