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The Artificial Silk Girl

The Artificial Silk Girl

Book rating: 04 Paperback

By (author) Irmgard Keun, Translated by Kathie Von Ankum, Introduction by Maria Tatar

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  • Publisher: Other Press (NY)
  • Format: Paperback | 194 pages
  • Dimensions: 126mm x 202mm x 6mm | 222g
  • Publication date: 14 June 2011
  • Publication City/Country: New York, NY
  • ISBN 10: 1590514548
  • ISBN 13: 9781590514542
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Sales rank: 127,082

Product description

Before Sex and the City there was Bridget Jones. And before Bridget Jones was The Artificial Silk Girl. In 1931, a young woman writer living in Germany was inspired by Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to describe pre-war Berlin and the age of cinematic glamour through the eyes of a woman. The resulting novel, The Artificial Silk Girl, became an acclaimed bestseller and a masterwork of German literature, in the tradition of Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories and Bertolt Brecht's Three Penny Opera. Like Isherwood and Brecht, Keun revealed the dark underside of Berlin's "golden twenties" with empathy and honesty. Unfortunately, a Nazi censorship board banned Keun's work in 1933 and destroyed all existing copies of The Artificial Silk Girl. Only one English translation was published, in Great Britain, before the book disappeared in the chaos of the ensuing war. Today, more than seven decades later, the story of this quintessential "material girl" remains as relevant as ever, as an accessible new translation brings this lost classic to light once more. Other Press is pleased to announce the republication of The Artificial Silk Girl, elegantly translated by noted Germanist Kathie von Ankum, and with a new introduction by Harvard professor Maria Tatar.

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Author information

Irmgard Keun was born in Berlin in 1905. She published her first novel, GilgióA Girl Just Like Us, in 1931. Her second novel, The Artificial Silk Girl, instantly became a bestseller. After the war, she resumed writing under the name of Charlotte Tralow, enjoying only modest success until her early works were rediscovered and reissued in the late 1970s. She died in 1982 in Cologne.

Customer reviews

By Nicola Markus 27 Jul 2011 4

The first few pages of this book, I really struggled, trying to follow as Doris shifted from one thought to another, segueing from topic to topic with no real pause. That is why I have always had a general dislike for stream of consciousness novels.

Anyhow, I persevered and gradually found myself getting into the flow of the prose.

The story is simple enough, following Doris as she moves through a string of men and troubles in Berlin in the early 1930's. You get a great sense of time and place from her descriptions and the characters come across well too.

Anyone who is into the Bridget Jones style 'dear diary' reads will probably find this enjoyable as it is really a sort of precursor to that idea, but written more as a single stream than as dated entries in a diary.

I found it an enjoyable read, but I had wished for a slightly different ending and felt a little flat when I turned the final page. Also, the language seemed stiff at times, but I am not sure if that was the style of the piece or just a translation matter; I may read it in German later to compare. Still, an interesting glimpse at 1930's Berlin, told from an eccentric, upbeat point of view. Worth checking out.

I received this book as a free e-book ARC from NetGalley.

Review quote

"A young girl navigates interwar German society and the expectations--or lack thereof--placed upon women, in this poignant, melancholy novel from the late Keun... [This] heartbreaking story of dashed hopes is one that still has the power to affect and inspire." --"Publishers Weekly" "Damned by the Nazis, hailed by the feminists ... a truly charming window into a young woman's life in the early 1930s" --"Los Angeles Times" ""The Artificial Silk Girl" follows Doris into the underbelly of a city that had once seemed all glamour and promise ... Kathie von Ankum's English translation will bring this masterwork to the foreground once more, giving a new generation the chance to discover Keun for themselves." --Elle.com