Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Heidegger's Glasses by Thaisa Frank


Review by Sheila R. Lamb


 Heidegger’s Glasses is a complex, intricate story that weaves history with the esoteric. By using philosopher Martin Heidegger’s eyeglasses as a catalyst, Thaisa Frank questions the definition of reality within the historical framework of World War II Germany. 

Cocooned from the blatant horrors of World War II, Scribes and their SS guards are equally imprisoned in an underground compound, built within a mineshaft. The job of the captive Scribes is to answer letters to the dead in order to appease their otherworldly spirits, who would otherwise tell the world about the Nazi plan for the Final Solution. Based on the historical existence of the Thule Society and the Nazi officers who subscribed to occultist beliefs, Frank extends their ideas to create the fictional Compound of Scribes.

Elie Schacten is one of the Scribes, a group of bilingual translators forced to write letters to the dead. Elie and her lover, SS guard Gerhardt Lodenstein, are members of the Resistance, and use the Compound of Scribes as a hiding place for refugees.  Elie’s true identity remains shrouded in layers of mystery, much to Lodenstein’s dismay.

When the feared Nazi propaganda leader Goebbels orders the Scribes to write a letter and deliver eyeglasses to philosopher Martin Heidegger from his optometrist friend Asher Englehardt, held at Auschwitz, the clandestine world of the Scribes is turned upside down. Neither Englehardt nor Heidegger is dead and the Scribes openly question the bizarre nature of their entire mission. Suddenly, their personal dramas meet the harsh face of Auschwitz as Lodenstein ventures beyond the compound to follow the Reich’s orders. Elie and Lodenstein must protect the Scribes, and the Resistance, from Goebbels’s unpredictable wrath.

Thaisa Frank writes with clear-cut prose, deftly juxtaposes the horror of war and the tenderness of love. Heidegger’s Glasses asks, in the face of war and death, what is real?