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After Midnight (Neversink) Paperback – May 31, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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

  • Series: Neversink
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (May 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935554417
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935554417
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.4 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,152,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Keun (1905-1983) was neither a precocious waif nor a tough cynical shop girl, like the female protagonists of her novels "Child of All Nations" and "The Artificial Silk Girl". Or was she? She certainly 'inhabited' those characters -- wore their psyches like a clinging blouse. That's her quotient of greatness as a novelist, her ability to portray the mentality of a 'common' woman with uncanny plausibility. She does men almost as accurately. But the real-life Irmgard Keun, the woman who hooked up with Alfred Döblin and Joseph Roth? Was she a sly intellectual from the start or was she someone like Susanne, the heroine of "After Midnight"? Susanne (Sanna) is patently no intellectual; she's what a Minnesotan would call "a smart cookie" - an ordinary lower-class 19-year-old German girl with no particular education or ambition other than having her bit of fun and being treated decently. But she's not blinded by glamor or pomp; she's the girly equivalent of the Boy in the fairy tale who blurted out the truth about the Emperor's New Clothes. In this case, the naked Emperor is Adolf Hitler and his entourage, and thus the whole buck-naked viciousness of the Third Reich.

Susanne has an older brother, a leftist writer named Algin who has been ostracized by the Nazi publishers. When the ingenue Susanne comes to live with her brother in Frankfurt, her reportage of the ideas she hears in her brother's circle provides author Irmgard Keun with a more explicit 'voice' with which to castigate the Nazi regime, even though Susanne often declares that she doesn't understand all of what she reports, and wishes her brother and her friends would be more cautious about 'shooting off their mouths'.
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"You can open an envelope and take out something which bites or stings, though it isn't a living creature. I had a letter like that from Franz today."

This opening line from Sanna was a great hook that brought immediacy and a tenseness that rarely dissipates in this well paced, dramatic portraiture of late 1930's Germany. Sanna is a 19 year girl caught between a desire to be flighty, flirty teenager but confronting the reality of a Germany racing full into its darkest period. Irmgard Keun wrote this story in 1937. It must have taken enormous bravery to do so and intelligence to tell it so well.

What the reader gets is a story about a girl observing and living in a swirl of increasing intolerance and oppression where one must seek out the proper worldview and express it in thought, voice and action. But what if that worldview keeps changing? She gets confused. Race laws increasingly isolate Jews, artists, political opponents. Neighbors race to tattletale to the Gestapo which now supercedes the police. Families wonder where a father or son or friend has disappeared to. Others hope to curry favor and get ahead by spying and pounding out the new "worldview" louder.

The story itself focused on Sanna and her friends affections for boys and men. They don't differentiate by race or religion but only what drives the heart. Around them is a world far less tolerant that they can barely understand. Kuen's ability to give such innocent voices clarity to the reader while not discrediting their character is a neat trick that works well. They can observe and offer insight without sounding outside their own youth and limitations.

The book worked for me as it disposes of the idea that "no one knew" or that "things could have been different". No.
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Format: Paperback
I was expecting After Midnight to be one of those novels that's not that interesting by itself but sticks in your mind later as a reflection of its times. I'm looking at Mephisto (Klaus Mann) and A Tomb for Boris Davidovich (Danilo Kis) here. Not so for Keun's novel of Nazi Germany, however. I enjoyed the novel while I was reading and still had that feeling of this-is-great-because-it-expresses-pivotal-history. Keun's narrator, Sanna, is deceptively naïve. She's young and all absorbed with romance and social relationships and then, boom, she mentions some aspect of Nazi control that's recently come to dominate Keun's characters' lives. The growing effects of Nazism on everyday German society accelerate quickly throughout the novel, with Sanna's life being turned upside down within the course of the two days covered by the story. Like the aforementioned novels concerning authoritarian governments, After Midnight very clearly expresses the life-changing (and life-annihilating) properties of said governments. Unlike the other novels, the central character of After Midnight is one with whom readers can better identify because, at least on the surface, she's just like any other young adult. After Midnight also covers a fairly full spectrum of German lives, from intellectuals to children to Nazi sympathizers to the average people just caught up in it all. The novel even has a satirical character who, like Shakespeare's jesters and other jokesters, is there to provide some comedic relief along with a clear view of what, exactly, is going on. Only this is a book about Nazi Germany, so there's very little relief to be found in these scathing, depressed denouements that will only end in tragedy.Read more ›
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