After Midnight (Neversink)
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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.
schnapps and beer. Berta is lying on the lilac as if it were a bed, her face buried in the damp and faded flowers. Everyone has jumped up, beer is dripping off the table, some people are mopping their wet suits. “Now, now, now!” says Herr Silias. “Bedtime for you!” cries Frau Silias. A waiter comes running up with a dishcloth and turns little Berta over. Her face is a bluish white, her hands are clenched into rigid little fists. Frau Silias suddenly screams, loud and long. The proprietor comes
notebooks at Aunt Adelheid’s shop. “A shocking sight, eh?” he said, pointing to the eroded noses. “Yes, indeed,” said Aunt Adelheid gravely. “Terrible, everyone ought to see it, it’s a warning to us all.” Don’t ask me why Aunt Adelheid needed a warning. She was over fifty, with no chance left of catching a venereal disease. Unless she got it from eating unwashed fruit off a barrow in the street. The Assistant Secretary saw us home. He was very earnest and very polite. He took to calling at the
period of feverish activity for Franz and Paul. Franz didn’t want to write to me about it—it was to be a surprise for me. But once they had the money safe and sound it looked as if the whole thing would fall through again. It was going to be extremely difficult to get the necessary permits. Both men plugged away at it until they were worn out. Even Paul ended up looking quite pale. Finally, after taking endless pains, they got over that difficulty too. They managed to rent a dark little shop in
still does. It even earns her a little money. Her soft toys are silly, daft—but amusing and appealing too. Oh dear, now Herr Kulmbach’s ordering yet another round of kirsch. And I’ve got an incredible amount of work to do tomorrow, because tomorrow evening is Liska’s big party. Gerti called for me at noon today, because she was going to buy a pink blouse and wanted me to come along to the shops and tell her which suited her best. Even Liska says I have good taste in clothes, and people are
Führer,” which kills his daughter, suggests that if Algin continues to write as the regime wishes he will debase himself artistically, and commit literary suicide. As Heini’s repeated comments of course indicate, he refuses to compromise with Nazism. This makes it almost impossible for him to keep writing in Germany, as Sanna notes: “Heini […] used to be a well-known journalist. He hardly writes at all these days—for political reasons” (75–76). And at Liska’s party, Heini recoils from the