Irmgard Keun's first novel, Gilgi, an edgy story about an ambitious young woman in emerging Nazi Germany made her a literary sensation at the age of twenty-one. Her next novel, The Artificial Silk Girl, landed her on the Black List, and in 1937 Keun fled Germany--and faked her own death--to escape persecution. In exile she wrote, After Midnight, a masterpiece about a teenager struggling with coming-of-age issues under the cloud of fascism.
WOW! Keun creates adolescent voices that ring authentic and true--even more than eight decades later. Keun masterfully combines romance-laced narrative with social criticism, making her characters the perfect ambassadors for anyone interested in learning about the ordinary people living through the Nazi era. After Midnight, especially, shows readers how good, ordinary Germans dealt with the oppression of the increasingly powerful Nazi regime. Paired with The Diary of Anne Frank, it would powerfully convey the struggles of the era to high school students. Anthea Bell's translation is stunning!
Keun snuck back into Germany, living undercover, during the remainder of the war, but she stopped writing, and that's heartbreaking. Feminist scholars rediscovered her work in the early 1980s, right before she died in 1982. I'm grateful that she lived long enough to see people reading her books once again. Now I hope American readers will discover this wonderful, brave author.