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Kesten, Hermann


KESTEN, HERMANN (1900–1996), German novelist. In 1927 Kesten became literary adviser to the Berlin publishing house of Kiepenheuer. He had to leave Germany in 1933 and was active in European refugee circles, but fled to the U.S.A. after the outbreak of World War ii. He lived in New York for several years, but after the collapse of Fascism in Italy made his home in Rome. Kesten's first novel, Josef sucht die Freiheit (1927), was translated into seven languages. Glueckliche Menschen (1931) and Der Scharlatan (1932) both deal with life in Berlin. During his exile, Kesten completed Ferdinand und Isabella (1936; U.S. ed. 1946; U.K. ed. Spanish Fire, 1946), a historical novel which recreates the period of the Jewish expulsion from Spain; and Koenig Philipp der Zweite (1938), which deals with Ferdinand and Isabella's successor on the Spanish throne.

Die Kinder von Gernika (1939) was written under the impact of the Spanish Civil War and portrays the tragic history of the Basques. Die fremden Goetter (1949) portrays the return to Judaism of a father and daughter during the Hitler era. Kesten's many other works included biographies of Copernicus (1945; Copernicus and His World, 1946) and Casanova (1952), and various plays and essays. His writing is remarkable for its good-natured humor alternating with sardonic irony in a manner reminiscent of Heine. Although he depicts man's inhumanity, Kesten also reveals his own faith in man and his love of freedom is combined with a sense of responsibility and duty.

[Sol Liptzin]

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