Publication Date: May 31, 2011
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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.
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.
Praise for After Midnight
“I cannot think of anything else that conjures up so powerfully the atmosphere of a nation turned insane."
“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.”
"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."
"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