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After Midnight (Neversink)by Irmgard Keun
Synopses & Reviews
Sanna and her ravishing friend Gerti would rather speak of love than politics, but in 1930s Frankfurt, politics cannot be escaped--even in the lady's bathroom. Crossing town one evening to meet up with Gerti's Jewish lover, a blockade cuts off the girls' path--it is the Fürher in a motorcade procession, and the crowd goes mad striving to catch a glimpse of Hitler's raised "empty hand." Then the parade is over, and in the long hours after midnight Sanna and Gerti will face betrayal, death, and the heartbreaking reality of being young in an era devoid of innocence or romance.
In 1937, German author Irmgard Keun had only recently fled Nazi Germany with her lover Joseph Roth when she wrote this slim, exquisite, and devastating book. It captures the unbearable tension, contradictions, and hysteria of pre-war Germany like no other novel. Yet even as it exposes human folly, the book exudes a hopeful humanism. It is full of humor and light, even as it describes the first moments of a nightmare. After Midnight is a masterpiece that deserves to be read and remembered anew.
"Published in America for the first time, suspicion and betrayal permeate social and romantic life in this finely wrought account of civilian life in 1930's Frankfurt. Though, like her narrator Sanna, Keun (The Artificial Silk Girl) had recently fled Nazi Germany when she wrote this slim volume, readers should resist conflating Keun's mature prose with the character's pitch-perfect naivetÃ©.Â Even while young Sanna lives in fear of innumerable faceless informants, she eats, drinks, and banters with them. Keun's achievement lies in how insidiously these mundane activities accrue over the course of a festive day.Â As the city prepares for a Hitler motorcade, a fog-like menace creeps in; by nightfall, however, via a series of curious asides and gestures — interrupted only by the sudden, strange death of a little girl — this menace has solidified into a horrifying reality. Keun reveals a continent's self-delusion in grotesque detail, describing Germany as 'turning on her own axis, a great wheel dripping blood.' In 1940, three years after writing this novel, Keun faked her own suicide and reentered Germany, residing there until war's end. In its deliberateness and daring, that act is consistent with — and reverberates inside — this powerful book. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
IRMGARD KEUN (1905–1982) became a sensation in her native Germany with the 1931 publication of her first novel, Gilgi, when she was 21. But her second novel, The Artificial Silk Girl, landed her on the Nazi blacklist. Eventually sentenced to death, she fled the country and staged her own suicide...then snuck back into Germany where she lived undercover for the duration of the war.
Anthea Bell is the recipient of the Schlegel Tieck Prize for translation from German, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize in 2002 for the translation of W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz, and the 2003 Austrian State Prize for Literary Translation. She lives in Cambridge, England.
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