Book About Letters: "Address Unknown"
It's July and with the mid-summer comes our latest installment of Book About Letters. We're looking at "Address Unknown" by Katherine Kressmann Taylor this month. First published in 1938 this novella became an instant classic -- so, I wondered: Why hadn't I heard of it till now?
In "Address Unknown", only 64 pages long, Kressmann Taylor's characters of "Max" and "Martin" exchange letters between 1932 and 1934. Max and Martin are friends turned business partners, when one of the men returns to Germany with his family just as the Nazi regime takes power. In a handful of letters, Kressman Taylor reveals with stunning simplicity and eerie accuracy the very real pre-War landscape and its effect on humanity.
Is this a book about letters? 100%. Told in epistolary style this book is quite literally a book of letters. This book in its time was a bestseller and classic, printed and reprinted in multiple languages and editions worldwide. It was so popular in fact that in 1944 a film inspired by the short story was released.
So, I wonder why I'd never heard of the "classic" until I found it this Spring on the shelves of Hatchards Books in London. I'd found the bookshop whilst on a walk with Sam and our friend Nitin, and asking for advice from a bookseller for "books about letters" as is my go-to in bookshops this slim volume was plucked for me.
It's hard to say why this short yet impactful story hasn't been top of any American literature reading lists. In this piece from The Guardian, the novella is called "the great forgotten anti-Nazi book that every one must read". I couldn't have said it better myself!
It seems "Address Unknown" became more established in the European cannon -- despite its American authorship -- purely for the reality it depicted: the very "real" life in Europe pre-War. It deals with themes of ideology, racism, politics, empathy, and revenge. It is quite simply, maybe the best book for this feature I've read in the two years of researching for it.
Needless to say, if you enjoy the intersection of letters and history that drive Flea Market Love Letters this is a must-read. If you are a teacher, please consider adding this to your syllabus. It will inspire discussion and thought, I promise. And, bonus: it's all about letters.
Get in Touch. Do you have a book in mind about letters you think I should read and review for "Books About Letters"? Let me know! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.