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Paying for the paper

Robert Alter, 6 August 1992

Life with a Star 
by Jiri Weil, translated by Rita Klimova and Roslyn Schloss.
Flamingo, 247 pp., £4.99, February 1991, 0 00 654329 4
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Mendelssohn is on the Roof 
by Jiri Weil, translated by Marie Winn.
HarperCollins, 228 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 00 223863 2
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... It is a critical commonplace, often intoned with pathos, to insist on the absolute discontinuity between what occurred in the Nazi genocide and the realm of ordinary experience. Because of that discontinuity, it is sometimes claimed, the mechanised mass murders are an unimaginable and hence indescribable subject: any representation of them is bound to be a misrepresentation, or, to follow the logic of Adorno’s famous dictum about no poetry after Auschwitz, a misconceived and wrongly consoling aestheticisation ...

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