(January 2, 2019 / JNS) Jewish-German author Edgar Hilsenrath, who wrote a best-selling fictional account of the Holocaust from the viewpoint of a Nazi, died on Dec. 30 from pneumonia at the age of 92, the German news agency dpa reported, quoting his second wife, Marlene.
Born in Leipzig in 1926, Hilsenrath moved to Romania in 1938 to flee the Nazis, but lived there in a ghetto. His inaugural novel Night, was published in 1954 and describes the horrors of surviving that ghetto.
He gained worldwide acclaim with his 1971 novel The Nazi and the Barber about a disturbing story of an SS member who tries to be Jewish after the war to elude apprehension. It sold millions of copies worldwide.
Nine years later, Hilsenrath released F— America, the story of Jakob Bronsky, a Jewish immigrant to the United States, who faced challenges during the 1950s.
In his 1989 novel The Story of the Last Thought, Hilsenrath wrote about the 1915 Armenian Genocide. He was awarded Germany’s prestigious Alfred Döblin Prize for Literature.
“Hilsenrath calls things by their proper names and portrays life first and foremost as physical existence, of whose details the reader is constantly made aware: birth, nursing, feeding, sex, and excretion accompanied by feelings of pleasure and pain,” wrote German literary scholar Dagmar C. G. Lorenz in 1989.
“The rhetoric of politicians and political theory are shown to be the schemes of beings ultimately dependent on these bodily processes and subject to physical desires,” she added. “Hilsenrath’s very approach is a protest against disrespect toward the mortal body, against the tyranny of the mind over matter.”