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Mendelssohn is on the Roof [Paperback]

Jiri Weil , Philip Roth , Marie Winn
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.99
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Daunt Books (9 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1907970010
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907970016
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 90,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another powerful novel about the Holocaust 9 July 2011
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The novel begins in Nazi-occupied Prague, soon after the invasion of Russia. There are the nine months when "the Butcher of Prague", Reinhardt Heydrich, as Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, ruled with naked terror. He saw Bohemia as an ancient German land, had utter contempt for the Czechs and was one of the main architects of the "Final Solution": the Jews were already herded into ghettoes; Theresienstadt had already been turned into a holding area from which many Jews were sent to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Weil has Heydrich regret that in his present position he could only organize the liquidation of the Jews instead of being able, as before, to participate personally in the violence. After Heydrich was assassinated, the terror intensified even more.

The book portrays the brutality and bureaucracy of the regime; the infighting within the different Nazi authorities; how the Nazis terrify each other almost as much as they terrify the people of Prague, as when an order given by Heydrich could not be immediately carried out. One of these orders had been to remove the statue of Mendelssohn from the roof of the Prague Academy of Music when none of his underlings knew which of the many statues was that of Mendelssohn. Such situations are farcical; but we are left in no doubt that there was never anything funny in the outcome, as we follow the precarious lives of several Jews and Czechs. Many have perforce to collaborate with the Germans and even take some pride in it; others reproach themselves bitterly; a few courageously engage in resistance. As the book progresses, it becomes darker and darker as the farcical elements are left behind. We move to Theresienstadt, where the Germans forced Jews to select other Jews to do terrible things to yet other Jews.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humour in a dark time by a brilliant author 12 Sep 2011
Format:Paperback
I came cross this by accident in the superb Daunt bookshop in London's Fulham Road. I believe the owner was persuaded by a member of staff to republish it as it was out of print.
I could not put it down. It is set in Prague in WWII under Nazi occupation. The authorities notice that on the roof of a famous music hall there is a row of busts of great musicians and one is that of Mendelsohn, the 19th century composer, and, as he was a Jew, he has to go and go, he must, before the top Nazi (unnamed but based on Heydrich) visits the hall. The trouble is that the minions sent to get rid of Mendelsohn have no idea what he looked like and cannot decide which has to go. What ensues is a tale of men of no great intellect but who are rendered even more stupid by extreme orthodoxy allied to fear of criminal leaders - and only a great author can do that with a humour that moves and shows that from the darkest of times there is good.
The writer, Jiri Weil, survived the Holocaust by faking his death and going into hiding. He writes from experience, from history and with dark but human humour. The story moves at pace and is always interesting and I feel it is one of the best I have read in recent times, so much so I had to get his other novel of the time he survived, "Life with a Star".
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful account 8 Sep 2011
By Mia
Format:Paperback
Jiri Weil's novel, full of dark humour and bitter irony, is a collection of vignettes, rather than a continuous narrative, it follows the lives of Jewish and Czech individuals struggling to survive in Nazi-occupied Prague and most inhuman times. There are portrayals of Nazi officials with references to historical figures and a most moving account of life in Terezin. The original Czech version was published posthumously in 1960 and is said to have taken the author 15 years to write. Weil himself feigned suicide in 1942 and managed to survive the war in hiding.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful novel, well translated 2 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback
Jiri Weil was one of the most accomplished Czech writers of the 20th century, and it is heart-warming to see more and more of his works appearing in English translation - even if somewhat late in the day. This novel is an imaginative recreation of the German occupation of the Czech lands and of the Holocaust as they impacted upon Czech society, both its Jewish and non-Jewish components. It succeeds because it shuns melodrama and employs a painful but always compelling realism. The characters are closely observed and never over-sentimentalised or, in the case of Heydrich, grotesque. In this sense the novel bears some comparison with Hans Fallada's "Alone in Berlin". Strongly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Read 1 April 2014
By L. Davidson VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
"Mendelssohn is on the Roof" is an exceptional book about life in Prague under the Nazis during the Second World War. It starts off telling the tale of the exploits of an SS officer who has been ordered to remove a statue of the Jewish composer Mendelssohn from the roof of a Prague concert hall .The book then expands it's reach to incorporate the lives of a wide range of people struggling to exist under the Nazi jackboot. We meet a Nazi leader, SS officers , Gestapo workers, Jewish children, Jewish elders and ordinary Jewish workers going about their everyday lives full of fear and terror ,against the backdrop of the forced transports of Jews to the extermination camps in the East. This book is very well written and the characterisation and dialogue is superb. The reader feels like he too is part of occupied Czechoslovakia living in the evocative and colourful landscape painted by the author. This book is written in a very matter of fact style , but it seethes with contempt for the Nazis and their treatment of the Jews and ordinary Czech people during the War. It is a humane ,compassionate novel , but unfortunately there are no happy endings for most of the main characters within it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent episodic novel by an author who survived the Nazi...
Jiří Weil, born in Prague in 1910, died from leukaemia a year before this novel was published in 1960, having worked on it for some 15 years. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dr R
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my thing.
Its not my kind of book. A bit tedious and hard to kep track of the names of the characters. I bought it for a book group.
Published 3 months ago by K. Everett
3.0 out of 5 stars Mendellsohn is on the roof
I found this book was very hard to get into - a little bitty not my cup of tea at all
Published 5 months ago by Jill Jenkins
4.0 out of 5 stars The Nature of Resistance
The flat style belies the horrific nature of story of the Nazi reign in Prague, a city I much admire. Read more
Published 7 months ago by William Herron
4.0 out of 5 stars Very original
I am enjoying this book which is quite unlike anything I have read before.
Humorous in places but the underlying story(the holocaust) is treated very seriously and is very... Read more
Published 7 months ago by kathleen kurji
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Without belittling the subject matter, this ended up being just another book about the Holocaust. The flap inside the book suggested that Mendelssohn's statue was mistaken for... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mike707
5.0 out of 5 stars Statues
Apart from everything else commendable about this superb, intelligent and moving novel, it makes you think deeply about the importance and symbolic significance of public statuary. Read more
Published 10 months ago by D. Ashdown
3.0 out of 5 stars dont know
Have not read this e book yet just purchased. That is why I can not make any rating nor review. Because I am interested in this field purchased it.
Published 14 months ago by Szilard Paczer
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and moving
Given the nature of its subject matter, this is quite a moving story. It is a tale well told, a nightmare of a farce which gives us some idea what it must have been like to have... Read more
Published on 17 April 2012 by Mr. Edward R. Addison
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, poignant, unforgettable
I have just finished reading this book and, for the first time in my life, will re-read the same book from the start straight after finishing. Read more
Published on 1 April 2012 by Marco
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