Mendelssohn Is on the Roof

Jiri Weil, Author, Marie Winn, Translator Farrar Straus Giroux $23.95 (228p) ISBN 978-0-374-20810-3
Originally published in Czech in 1960, this novel by the author of Life with a Star is a fierce and mocking portrayal of ordinary lives as they are changed by the presence of the Nazis in occupied Prague. When top-level Nazi Reinhard Heydrich attends a performance of Don Giovanni at Prague's concert hall, he is not only disturbed by the vengeance of the Commendatore's statue in Mozart's opera, but by the sight of a statue of the composer Mendelssohn (who was born a Jew, but converted to Christianity) atop the roof of the hall. He orders it removed. But the hapless low-level minions whose task this becomes cannot identify Mendelssohn's likeness amongst the rooftop statuary. In a series of biting ironies, Weil, who died in 1959, takes us on a guided tour of the hearts and minds of both victims and persecutors. Images of statues are abundant throughout the text, from an enormous Moses being hauled into storage to the tragic paralysis of a Jewish doctor to this musing on the part of the infamous Heydrich: ``Knowing the secret of the Final Solution means invisible power. It means standing high above all people and looking down on them in scornful safety, like a statue. It means being made of stone or bronze. . . . '' Perhaps shriller in tone than Primo Levi, this insistent and important novel of the Holocaust is more than a manifesto; it is also literature. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1991
Release date: 04/01/1991
Paperback - 228 pages - 978-0-8101-1686-3
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