Overview

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 ...
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After Midnight

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Overview

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.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Keun's literary reputation is currently being reassessed. Her first two books were bestsellers in her native Germany; her later, post-World War II novels less popular. This third novel, published in Germany in 1937, takes a biting look at the final nightmarish days of the Weimar Republic. Narrator Sanna Moder, a ditzy blonde, falls in love with her cousin Franz, a relationship quickly squelched by her aunt, Franz's mother, who informs the police that Sanna has made ``subversive statements'' about Goring. After a harrowing interrogation, Sanna moves in with her brother, a well-known writer who has been reduced to writing National Socialist Party propaganda, and his wife. She becomes involved with their intellectual circle of friends while waiting to be reunited with her lover. Keun's real talent is as a portraitist. From the cynical journalist contemplating suicide as a way out to the newspaper seller who has invented a divining rod to unmask Jews, the author has portrayed a society desperately trying to protect itself from annihilation. Much of the material is dated, and the clever repartees, the little ironies seem sadly irrelevant now. Yet Keun's spirited defense of common decency stands out after all this time. (March)
Publishers Weekly
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 naiveté.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.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)
From the Publisher
Praise for After Midnight

“I cannot think of anything else that conjures up so powerfully the atmosphere of a nation turned insane."
Sunday Telegraph

“You can feel the creeping evil slowly infiltrate everyday existence. But this is also a love story.”
Manchester Evening News
 
“Acerbically observed by this youthful, clever, undeceived eye….Crystalline yet acid.”
Jewish Chronicle

"If the original Nach Mitternacht is as lively as Anthea Bell's snappy English translation, Keun was not only a great satirist but also a great stylist. Now published for the first time in the United States, After Midnight is a sharp, vivid and uncompromising read on an impossible subject....[A] slim but important novel."
Shelf Awareness

"Explosive....Reading After Midnight today [still] feels dangerous. I kept turning to the copyright page, unable to believe that such a sexually and politically frank book could have been published in 1937 Germany, a time of blacklists and book burnings....Keun has an amazing gift for exposing the conflict at the heart of the average citizen, whose naivete is eventually and sometimes violently stripped away....After Midnight haunts far beyond its final page."
—NPR.com's "Books We Like"

“[Irmgard Keun's] stunning works of literature are searing satires of life under the Third Reich in which fascist ideology is subtly and hilariously subverted, Nazi racism pilloried…The overwhelming power of Keun’s work lies in her surprisingly raw, witty, and resonant feminine voices.”
Jenny McPhee, Bookslut

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781935554714
  • Publisher: Melville House Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/24/2011
  • Series: Neversink
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,262,403
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet 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.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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