Irmgard Keun was born in Berlin and attended a Lutheran girls' school in Cologne. She supported herself as a stenographer while originally pursuing an acting career. In 1931, at age 26, she burst onto the German literary scene with two radical novels that became bestsellers: Gilgi--One of Us, and The Artificial Silk Girl. They portrayed young women shedding conventional roles and adopting more modern and urban lives. The Nazi regime called the books "anti-German" and blacklisted them. After a fruitless lawsuit against the Gestapo for lost royalties, Irmgard Keun was forced into a wandering exile around Europe. She befriended a number of fellow German émigré writers and intellectuals including Stefan Zweig and Heinrich Mann, and was romantically involved with Joseph Roth. In 1940, she arranged for a newspaper to report that she had committed suicide. Using a false passport in the name of Charlotte Tralow, she then managed to smuggle herself back into Germany, where she survived the war. During this turbulent period, she produced two masterworks: After Midnight (1937), now considered one of the most powerful first-hand portrayals of life under Nazism, and Child of All Nations (1938). In the 1960s, she spent several years in a psychiatric hospital in Bonn. At the end of her life, she was finally recognized as one of Germany's groundbreaking and most courageous authors.