The Artificial Silk Girl

The Artificial Silk Girl

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by Irmgard Keun, Kathie von Ankum
     
 

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Before Sex and the City there was Bridget Jones. And before Bridget Jones was The Artificial Silk Girl.

In 1931, a young woman writer living in Germany was inspired by Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to describe pre-war Berlin and the age of cinematic glamour through the eyes of a woman. The resulting novel, The Artificial Silk Girl, became an acclaimed… See more details below

Overview

Before Sex and the City there was Bridget Jones. And before Bridget Jones was The Artificial Silk Girl.

In 1931, a young woman writer living in Germany was inspired by Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to describe pre-war Berlin and the age of cinematic glamour through the eyes of a woman. The resulting novel, The Artificial Silk Girl, became an acclaimed bestseller and a masterwork of German literature, in the tradition of Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories and Bertolt Brecht's Three Penny Opera. Like Isherwood and Brecht, Keun revealed the dark underside of Berlin's "golden twenties" with empathy and honesty. Unfortunately, a Nazi censorship board banned Keun's work in 1933 and destroyed all existing copies of The Artificial Silk Girl. Only one English translation was published, in Great Britain, before the book disappeared in the chaos of the ensuing war. Today, more than seven decades later, the story of this quintessential "material girl" remains as relevant as ever, as an accessible new translation brings this lost classic to light once more. Other Press is pleased to announce the republication of The Artificial Silk Girl, elegantly translated by noted Germanist Kathie von Ankum, and with a new introduction by Harvard professor Maria Tatar.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
First published in 1932, this unusual novel might well have been subtitled "Social Climbing Through Bed-Hopping in the Last Days of the Weimar Republic." Initially a commercial success, it was soon banned by the Nazis for the racy, irreverent musings of its narrator, Doris, an office worker who decides that her best chance of improving her lot is to exercise her considerable libido as she tries to find a rich Mr. Right. Her strategy succeeds for brief periods, but Doris also goes through several down-at-the-heels phases as her various affairs come apart; at a particularly perilous moment, she is almost forced into prostitution. Her most consistent candidate for true love is a man named Hubert, who wanders in and out of her life. When he disappears, Doris takes a stab at life in the theater before a problematic affair ends that venture. Doris's frank, outrageous comments on the foibles of her various suitors keep things entertaining until the one-note romantic plot begins to wear thin. Readers may be disappointed that Keun (1905-1982) has little to offer on the politics of the era, save for her portrayal of a brief date in which Doris gets rejected when she pretends to be Jewish. That lacuna aside, this is an illuminating look at the much-mythologized social and sexual mores of Weimar Germany. (July) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
“A young girl navigates interwar German society and the expectations—or lack thereof—placed upon women, in this poignant, melancholy novel from the late Keun… [This] heartbreaking story of dashed hopes is one that still has the power to affect and inspire.” —Publishers Weekly

“Damned by the Nazis, hailed by the feminists ... a truly charming window into a young woman’s life in the early 1930s” —Los Angeles Times
 
The Artificial Silk Girl follows Doris into the underbelly of a city that had once seemed all glamour and promise ... Kathie von Ankum’s English translation will bring this masterwork to the foreground once more, giving a new generation the chance to discover Keun for themselves.” —Elle.com

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590514535
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
06/14/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
216
Sales rank:
601,287
File size:
2 MB

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Read an Excerpt

It must have been around twelve midnight last night that I felt something wonderful happening inside of me. I was in bed — I had meant to wash my feet, but I was too tired after that hectic night the day before, and hadn’t I told Therese: “You don’t get anything out of letting yourself be talked to on the street. You owe yourself some self-respect, after all.”

Besides, I already knew the program at the Kaiserhof. And then all this drinking — I had trouble getting home all right, and it’s never easy for me to say no in the first place. “The day after tomorrow, then,” I told him. But no way! A guy with knobby fingers like that and always just ordering the cheap wine from the top of the menu, and cigarettes at five pfennigs apiece — when a man starts out that way, where is it going to end?

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