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Child of All Nations Hardcover – September 4, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 194 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Press (September 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590200993
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590200995
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.6 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,677,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

First published in 1938 and now available in English, Keun's antic road novel set in pre-WWII Europe is a charmer that unfortunately sours. Ten-year-old narrator Kully's problems are bigger than the usual preadolescent angst. With Kully and her mother, Annie, in tow, her father, Peter, a novelist and journalist, has abandoned their native Germany, where many of his colleagues have been imprisoned during the fascist 1930s. The family is constantly on the move, from Poland and Belgium to the Netherlands and France. Peter—irresponsible, frequently broke, too fond of booze and women—has his family living on credit at fancy hotels and scrounges constantly and outrageously off publishers, relatives and acquaintances, often leaving Kully and Annie for weeks on end as he travels to drum up funds. Kully is often canny and amusing, and her dysfunctional family will resonate with many contemporary readers, but her voice and precociousness quickly become grating, and the political impressions of this European Eloise promise more than they deliver. (Sept.)
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Review

A delicious novel about an irreverent thirteen year old, Child of All Nations smokes and so does its heroine -- Erica Jong Nothing short of a revelation ... I am still haunted by it Evening Standard Hugely engaging... [with] room for everything -- shrewdness, forgiveness, wit and loneliness -- while love makes all its hopeless deals with hope -- Anne Michaels, author of Fugitive Pieces --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Aceto TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
Kully is a bit the dissembler when she is not busy being our lens on the fragile, unstable world of 1938. Irmgard Keun tips us off early on, so that we may at least have some chance not to fall entirely in her thrall. She says she secretly practiced on the typewriter, but it broke only after she did. The main point of course is that she is already following in several sets of footsteps, three at the very least, playing at being grown up as children do. But with that crucial twist of prevarication, like lemon rind in a perfect Martini.

She is something of her father's daughter. Though she cannot speak French, really, the restaurant staff take her for French. Keun, as she often does, cuts both ways here. Kully is made up to speak Koelsch, just enough to make her a touch alien to mainstream Germany of the day. By the same token, she carries the day by using her language facility to put one over on the common crowd.

By such devices and many more, Keun shows she is a far more developed and capable writer of true literature than her older fellow traveler, Joseph Roth. She has his journalist's eye to some extent, but with artistic sophistications he had no truck with.

Kully is already darkly realistic even as she retains some of the naïf child. She knows the puppy she covets must belong to an attentive owner because everything cute does. Only mother nature herself keeps Kully in check, looming large. Womanhood, still a little ways off, also looms. She anticipates change as an alien invasion of her perfectly functioning body, though she grants that boys are to keep you warm. Not a little stubborn, she rejects puberty as inevitable. Keun has set up as many inner balances and tensions as external ones. Thus she broadens and intensifies the novel at once.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe VINE VOICE on April 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
Ten-year old Kully is an unusual girl and she tells her story in a curious, conversational way. Combining childlike naiveté and playful innocence with an exceptionally astute ability for observation and deduction, she interprets and records life around her as she sees it. Irmgard Keun uses a young girl's point of view with great skill to portray a reality that may have been too painful to address in depth through an adult voice. This way, Kully's limited yet realistic perception of traumatic daily life of an émigré family on the run to escape German authorities, allows the author to keep a hopeful and optimistic tone in her descriptions of circumstances and people. Whether Kully expresses her deep love for her parents, comments on her parents' political and financial woes or describes her physical surroundings in the hotels where she stays, her sharp-witted comments make you laugh and cry at the same time. Reading this brief intense novel now, more than seventy years after it was first published in 1938, we can place the girl and her story into a broader historical context. With hindsight, we can read between the lines, finish her sentences and re-interpret her thoughts and shake our head in wonder how she and her family even managed to survive.

Rarely have I heard a ten-year old speak so much and in such apparently light-hearted way about death, lack of money, alcoholism or homelessness. Kully feels happiest when traveling with both her parents on a train between destinations on their constant escape from creditors or border controls. Too often, she stays behind with her mother while her father is off to another "project" to raise money, sell one of his book manuscripts or at least an article... or give in to his many weaknesses.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on March 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
... ye shall not realize the absurdity of most matters in life." That's the commonest rationale for anyone to write a whole book in 'first person' narrative from the point of view of a child, to reveal the inanity and insanity of the adult world. And when that "adult world" is Europe in the 1930s, amid economic stagnation, the rise of fascism, and the impending catastrophe of persecution of Jews and others, there's so much insanity to reveal that even a child can fathom the horror of it.

This "Child of All Nations" is Kully, a nine-year-old girl from Köln who starts her narrative in 1936 in a hotel in Ostende, where she and her mother are waiting for her 'famous writer' father to return from Prague with enough money to pay their hotel bill and redeem his family from hostagedom. The family has just escaped into exile from Hitlerian Germany, and Kully still speaks only the Köln dialect of Deutsch. By the end of the book, the girl will be conversant in French, Italian, Polish, several dialects of German, and English. Kully is indisputably precocious, as slyly resourceful as any kid in an American 'Home Alone' film. She's also amusingly naive at times. She understands some things one might not expect a nine-year-old to understand; at the same time, she 'intuits' the meaning of some things in ways that are bizarrely apropos despite being utterly wrong from an adult viewpoint. Kully's "voice" is remarkably convincing most of the time, or at least as much off the time as her author/creator wants it to be. But since Kully exists really as a spokesperson for poignant satire, one does need to make allowances for bits of wry insouciance here and there.
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