Title: Heidegger’s Glasses
Author: Thaisa Frank
Synopsis (Courtesy of IndieBound): “Heidegger’s Glasses opens during the end of World War II in a failing Germany coming apart at its seams. The Third Reich’s strong reliance on the occult and its obsession with the astral plane has led to the formation of an underground compound of scribes –translators responsible for answering letters written to those eventually killed in the concentration camps.
Into this covert compound comes a letter written by eminent philosopher Martin Heidegger to his optometrist, a man now lost in the dying thralls of Auschwitz. How will the scribes answer this letter? The presence of Heidegger’s words–one simple letter in a place filled with letters–sparks a series of events that will ultimately threaten the safety and well-being of the entire compound.
Part love story, part thriller, part meditation on how the dead are remembered and history is presented, with threads of Heidegger’s philosophy woven throughout, the novel evocatively illustrates the Holocaust through an almost dreamlike state. Thaisa Frank deftly reconstructs the landscape of Nazi Germany from an entirely original vantage point.”
Thoughts: Heidegger’s Glasses is unlike anything read to date. As the synopsis states, it truly is a hybrid of genres and difficult to categorize. It requires the reader’s patience as the story unfolds slowly and methodically but the reward is a story rich in human adaptation and survival in a setting in which survival was paramount but extremely tricky.
There is so much about this book which is depressing – living underground in a covert bunker, living near Berlin at the mercy of Goebbels, the letters. The letters themselves are heart-wrenching. Coercion, desperation, fear, hopelessness all make their appearance in the letters from concentration camp prisoners that intersperse the novel. Their presence brings a humanity to the mission of the bunker.
Speaking of the bunker, there is a sense of irony about living underground. The members are essentially buried alive, with only minimal trips to breath fresh air. Granted, it is better than the alternative, but how to live with the guilt that they survived when their loved ones didn’t? In this instance, is life underground waiting for the Nazi soldiers to show up to close down the compound better than the alternative?
Speaking of Goebbels, how ironic is it that the man behind the concentration camps is so concerned with appearances? He is willing to ignore his own rules to ensure that his public face is one of beneficence. In fact, as sadistic as he was in private, he never wanted to appear as such in public. He wanted to erase an entire population but the entire premise behind the compound is the idea that no one could know what he was doing. In fact, it is this key attitude that sets in motion the most exciting and yet gut-wrenching scenes in the novel.
Elie and Lodenstein are quite the couple. Each person is a touch insane, made so by their close association with the compound as well with the Nazis. The secrets they keep during their time together proves to be their undoing, even as they provide the means for others’ salvation.
Overall, Heidegger’s Glasses is a difficult book to read. About good people trying to do good deeds during a time period in which all the rules change hourly, readers enter an emotional maelstrom. It is impossible to remain emotionally distant from the story that unfolds. Yet, it is a story that ultimately fills readers with hope – hope that humanity can survive the worst and that nothing is ever in vain. Its messages sneak their way into a reader, to be remembered and savored long after one finishes it.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for my advanced reading copy!
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