cover image After Midnight%E2%80%A8

After Midnight%E2%80%A8

Irmgard Keun, trans. from the German by Anthea Bell. Melville (Random, dist.), $15 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-935554-41-7%E2%80%A8

Published in America for the first time, suspicion and betrayal permeate social and romantic life in this finely wrought account of civilian life in 1930's Frankfurt. Though, like her narrator Sanna, Keun (The Artificial Silk Girl) had recently fled Nazi Germany when she wrote this slim volume, readers should resist conflating Keun's mature prose with the character's pitch-perfect naivet%C3%A9.%C2%A0Even while young Sanna lives in fear of innumerable faceless informants, she eats, drinks, and banters with them. Keun's achievement lies in how insidiously these mundane activities accrue over the course of a festive day.%C2%A0As the city prepares for a Hitler motorcade, a fog-like menace creeps in; by nightfall, however, via a series of curious asides and gestures%E2%80%94interrupted only by the sudden, strange death of a little girl%E2%80%94this menace has solidified into a horrifying reality. Keun reveals a continent's self-delusion in grotesque detail, describing Germany as "turning on her own axis, a great wheel dripping blood." In 1940, three years after writing this novel, Keun faked her own suicide and reentered Germany, residing there until war's end. In its deliberateness and daring, that act is consistent with%E2%80%94and reverberates inside%E2%80%94this powerful book. (June)