Mendelssohn is on the Roof, by Jiří Weil


Four and a half stars, read in July 2018.

I’m tired of World War II stories, because their popularity in our culture seems saccharine, nationalistic, almost fetishistic—an excuse to pat ourselves on the back and fawn over the “glory days” of the “Greatest Generation”—while generally managing to sideline the sickeningly-relevant lessons we should be learning from it. This book was grandfathered in, having been on my list since the day I first joined Goodreads in 2010, and it more than justifies its survival of my many to-read-shelf purges. But it is not for the faint-hearted (as no honest World War II story should be).

This is a dark, dark book. It has a similar feel to Catch-22, but . . . well, darker. Because instead of just the inane bureaucracy and casual cruelty of war, we also have Nazis. Having to read from the perspective of both SS officers and their Jewish captives, the Acting Reich Protector and members of the resistance, the Gestapo and little girls hiding in a cubbyhole behind a cupboard . . . is not easy. There’s humor throughout, which makes the brutality all the more gutting. An excellent and painful book.

The Charles Bridge, where the Acting Reich Protector takes the Reich minister on a tour of Prague to show him how German the city is.

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