Last Trolley from Beethovenstraat

Grete Weil, Author, John Barrett, Translator
Grete Weil, Author, John Barrett, Translator David R. Godine Publisher $22.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-56792-031-4
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Andreas, the hero of this slim and poignant novel set in postwar Germany, belongs to the literary lineage of painfully self-conscious, indecisive young men. Andreas is a listless, anguished, would-be poet whose relationship with his parents leaves much to be desired. Inclined to ponder the ambiguities of existence, Andreas is ill-prepared for his position in history, which thrusts him into the world of moral absolutes that is Amsterdam during the Holocaust. Weil (The Bride Price) writes in German and is now in her 90s, but this novel, her fifth, has the freshness and energy of an early work--as well as some of its typical flaws, including awkward turns of plot, a few aimless stream-of-consciousness passages and dry, detached philosophizing. During the war, Andreas finds work as a journalist in Amsterdam, where he hides a Jewish boy, Daniel, with whom he forms a close bond. Daniel is discovered and murdered by the Nazis, and his death leaves Andreas traumatized and unable to write. The novel shuttles deftly back and forth between the past of the war and the present of its aftermath, in which the neurotic Andreas is married to Daniel's wealthy cousin Susanne. And Andreas himself shuttles between the futility of resistance and the impossibility of inaction, between the joy of creation and the despair of loss, between the ecstasy of love and his alienation from bloody humanity until, by the novels' end, he finds a way to make his own separate peace. (Aug.)
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