An Unusual Comedy

Comedy in a Minor Key has an unusual tone. The story takes place against a backdrop of war, persecution, and genocide. As readers might expect, there is a great deal of darkness in the text. Nico is in hiding for his life. He faces overbearing loneliness and the steady, dull pressure of boredom as he watches the seasons change through his upstairs window. At one point, Jop is caught by the authorities. Although Wim, Marie, and Nico are not caught, it is understood that Jop will likely be tortured for information.

Indeed, the tone of Comedy in a Minor Key is subtly dark, but it is also often comically ironic. Two early threats to Wim and Marie are not Nazi detectives but rather the housekeeper and some milk spilt on a stove. In spite of all their efforts to help Nico, he eventually dies of pneumonia. All of their efforts and sacrifice seem to have been for naught. However, the irony does not stop there. Wim and Marie put themselves at risk while hiding Nico for years, and now they are in more danger than ever before because they must dispose of Nico’s corpse without revealing their identity. Unfortunately, they overlook the fact that the blanket in which they transport Nico’s body contains their laundry tag and family monogram. In a final twist of events, Wim and Marie are forced to go into hiding.

The tone of Comedy in a Minor Key is complex and finely balanced. Keilson actually endured similar circumstances in his own life, which is perhaps one reason he is able to balance such a variety of emotions. The mood throughout Comedy in a Minor Key is one where the danger comes through minor details; this unusual atmosphere makes the story unique. No matter how horrifying, it seems that life goes on in a routine way.

Experiencing the War

Comedy in a Minor Key portrays the day-to-day life of the Dutch people who resisted the Nazi war effort. However, it is not an action or adventure story. Instead, Keilson takes a minimalist’s approach to the war by never mentioning the Nazis and only alluding to the...

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