Author: Kathrine Kressmann Taylor
Publication Date: 1939
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Washington Square Press reissue 2001)
Blurb (GR): A rediscovered classic, originally published in 1938 and now an international bestseller.When it first appeared in Story magazine in 1938, Address Unknown became an immediate social phenomenon and literary sensation. Published in book form a year later and banned in Nazi Germany, it garnered high praise in the United States and much of Europe.A series of fictional letters between a Jewish art dealer living in San Francisco and his former business partner, who has returned to Germany, Address Unknown is a haunting tale of enormous and enduring impact.
I was browsing Goodreads the other day and a short review came through my feed. I'd never heard of the book before but Elizabeth rarely gives books five stars so I was intrigued. I immediately put it on hold at my library and read it as soon as I got home today. I was skeptical about the claims made about the book, including the front cover quote from the New York Times Review:
"This modern story is perfection itself. It is the most effective indictment of Nazism to appear in fiction."
Address Unknown was first published in 1938 by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor, who wrote as Kressmann Taylor at the suggestion of her publisher, who thought the topic too intense to publish under a female's name. Story magazine's entire printing that contained the 54-page short story sold out quickly. Though several accounts I've read online argue that the book came back into the public light in 1999 when a French publisher put out a French translation which sold 600,000 copies (BBC), I honestly cannot believe that this book isn't used in schools and that I've somehow made it 28 years without ever hearing one word about it. When asked why she wrote this book, Kressmann Taylor tells a firsthand story about German friends of hers who'd lived in the US but were only visiting after moving back to Nazi Germany. They encountered a Jewish man, with whom they'd been intimate friends, and turned their back to his offered embrace and would not speak to him. (foreword) She said that after seeing this she could not help but wonder how seemingly normal people could become so warped and that she "began researching Hitler and reading his speeches and the writings of his advisors. What I discovered was terrifying. What worried me most was that no one in America was aware of what was happening in Germany and they also did not care." (foreword) Look how short this book is:
The ending took me by surprise and that's all I'll say about that--the story went somewhere I had no idea it was going to go and I had to sit back and wonder whether what I was feeling was valid or disgusting. How often does that happen?
I found out after reading about Kathrine Kressmann Taylor online that there was a movie made in 1944 and the ending is changed up a bit. I can't wait to see this film. There was also a dramatization done by the BBC for their Afternoon Drama series. I recommend that everyone read this. It will take you about half an hour. Come back and tell me what you think of it. I hope you can find a copy. I know I'm buying one.