Heidegger's Glasses

Praise & Reviews


—Publishers Weekly
Starred Review
In her debut novel, Frank (A Brief History of Camouflage) presents a slightly fantastic tale of WWII, concerning an underground German bunker where multi-lingual intellectuals, spared the concentration camps, spend the war answering letters sent to concentration camp inmates who are, in all likelihood, already dead; called the Compound of Scribes, its mission is part record-keeping, part supernatural insurance plan, meant to keep the spirits of the dead from tipping off psychics to the Nazi's Final Solution. Despite their absurd (and potentially confusing) orders, the 50-some Scribes live in relative peace under the supervision of Elie and Gerhardt, lovers secretly working for the Resistance. Then a daunting task comes down from Goebbels himself-answer a letter from genius philosopher Martin Heidegger to his friend and optometrist Asher Englehardt, a prisoner in Auschwitz-setting events in motion that will threaten the lives of everyone in the compound. Taking readers to a curiously polyglot netherworld, a population removed from the horrors of the Reich even as it deals in some of its most intimate dispatches, Frank's vision of the Holocaust is original and startling, with compelling characters and a narrative that's both explosive and ponderous.

"Heidegger’s Glasses is a tour de force whose imagery haunts the reader long after the final page is turned. The book evokes overwhelming feelings of both sadness and hope - I felt richer for having read it.”
— Jim Moret, Huffington Post

The Nazi Briefkation (Operation Mail), which forced concentration camp prisoners to write reassuring letters to loved ones that were sent instead to a central Berlin office, provides the historic framework for Frank’s debut novel. Here the Compound of Scribes, a group of detainees selected for their language skills, answers the prisoners’ letters in their original language, a mission devised by Nazi believers in the occult to assuage the dead. At the heart of this community—housed in an underground tunnel cunningly fashioned to mimic a town—is Elie Schacten, the lover of Compound commander SS officer Gerhardt Lodenstein, who hides her Polish ancestry as she makes forays to gather supplies and assist escaping fugitives. When prominent philosopher Martin Heidegger writes fellow philosopher and optometrist Asher Engelhardt in Auschwitz, the Scribes are ordered to answer Heidegger’s letter, an operation botched by an SS flunky that leads to endangering the entire Compound. Written in the precise prose that has garnered praise for Frank’s short fiction, this surreal tale is a vivid reminder of what we must not forget.
Booklist, Michele Leber


“This is stunning work, full of mystery and strange tenderness. Thaisa Frank has written one of the most compelling stories of the Nazi regime since D.M. Thomas’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It is a book that will haunt you."

—Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply

Heidegger’s Glasses is a spellbinding, innovative, intellectually compelling tour-de-force. Thaisa Frank’s imagination is boundless: she enchants and horrifies and moves us, often on the same page.”
—Michelle Huneven, author of Blame

“Thaisa Frank has composed a mesmeric image of prisoners trapped in the madness of a decaying Nazi regime. Ms. Frank’s skillfully laced prose and riveting imagery combine to create an unforgettably surrealistic portrait of a world gorged on insanity.”
—Thomas Steinbeck, author of Down to a Soundless Sea

“Philosophical yet searingly passionate, Thaisa Frank’s debut novel is essential reading for our own uncertain times. Practically vibrating with empathy, Heidegger’s Glasses is one of those rare gifts of literature that makes you feel as deeply as it makes you think. You will never forget it.”
—Sheri Holman, author of The Dress Lodger

Heidegger's Glasses has the majesty and significance of novels of another time and place. Thaisa Frank's surreal narrative has the uncanny sensibility of a Yiddish folk tale and the mystical spirit of an Isaac Bashevis singer story.”
—Katharine Weber, author of True Confections and Triangle

Heidegger’s Glasses suspends us in a world populated with angels and devils, philosophers and survivors, who come alive through passions and actions that seize our minds and hearts.  This surreal world explodes and we watch courage walking hand in hand with death until the satisfying end. It is an amazing book.”
—Louise Murphy, author of The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

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