Comedy in a Minor Key takes the form of a classical story which gives a "happy" ending to the reader, though not without roughing up our sensibilities. A young couple in Holland agree to take a jewish man into hiding during WW II, and the evolution of their relationship, from strangers to awkward intimates, allows the author to explore the inner psyche and motivation of his engaging characters. The reader feels a steady dramatic tension, partly owing to the concern that he will be discovered, but also the internal tension of the central characters, who chafe at confinement and the need for a continued pretense. There are useful metaphors that create a foggy atmosphere: the coveted third rate tobacco they share, the stranger's secret stash of Lucky Strikes, his chosen alias, Nico. His lungs will betray him in the end. Gaunt, ashen, feverish, emaciated, dressed in pajamas, he dies the same slow death of his compatriots in the concentration camps. His death causes an ironic turn of events that allows the author to turn up the gas on Nico's protectors, exposing them to what it is like to be deeply afraid and rootless.
This spare volume is a provocative, timeless story that should be widely read. Its elegance lies in is its seeming simplicity, but is full of nuanced and poignant dilemmas. It would make an excellent discussion book for book clubs or students.