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After Midnight (1937)

by Irmgard Keun

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2791393,339 (4)24
"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 Furher 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"--… (more)
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English (12)  French (1)  All languages (13)
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
I followed up on [The Seventh Cross] by reading this slim novel. Again, this is set in 1930s Germany, as Hitler is in power and life is changing for everyone. Told through the eyes of a young woman, Sanna begins the novel interested in hanging out with her friends and flirting with men and giving sharp, pointed, sometimes humorous commentary on the new political regime. She obviously doesn't support Hitler, but she also isn't yet seeing the ramifications that the changes in Germany will have on her life. By the end of the book, that has changed. Friends of hers are getting denounced and turned in, she is pulled in for questioning, people are dying, and she is fleeing.

A moving and important novel that is also enjoyable and quick to read. I definitely recommend and appreciate the LTers who brought it to my attention. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Jan 15, 2024 |
Berlin, late 1930's. Hitler is in power, adored by the masses. 19 year old Sanna lives with her brother in Berlin and is "finding herself." She narrates the story of her life about town in a sort of innocent way, and through a lens of perhaps willful ignorance we glimpse through her eyes some of the oppression and horrors that are beginning to unfold. Her best friend Gerti loves a Jewish man, but cannot be open about it. Her bother, who is a writer, has his books banned.

The book really captures the feel of what it must have been like to be in the midst of a society caught in the mass hysteria of worshipping a cult figure.

I would like to read more by this author.

Recommended.

4 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Dec 31, 2023 |
After Midnight was originally published in German in Amsterdam in 1937. Keun was by this time on the Nazi's black list and it was by no means easy to get her book published in Holland. It is not a political book in that it is written in the first person by a nineteen year old girl who has little interest in politics. It tells the story of Sanna; a pretty girl living amongst middle class German citizens of Frankfurt, who are by this time all politicised by the Third Reich led by Hitler. He has become a god-like figure and all life centres around him highlighted by his cavalcades through German towns and his speeches broadcast everywhere on the Radio.

It is a love story; Sanna is in love with Franz who has had to leave the city to escape possible arrest after being denounced by a rival shopkeeper and now his letters have stopped arriving. Her friend Liska is married to Algin, but Liska has set her cap at Heini who is a member of the SA. Gerti is in love with Dieter Aaron, who has been designated as a third class citizen due to his being of mixed race and Gerti must be careful not to show him affection in public. Sanna is not a well educated girl, but has learnt after being denounced for making off hand remarks about Hitler, that it is not a pleasant experience to be summoned to the local offices of the Gestapo, she was lucky in getting away with a caution. Many of her friends and acquaintances belong to the National Socialist party and she knows now to be careful about what she says. She is disparaging about some of them, who try to be super patriotic by claiming to have read Mein Kampf; Sanna says they are probably all like her; having a copy in the house, but rarely opening it. It is a world of intrigue that ordinary citizens have by and large accepted.

"Everyone has got power over everyone else. Everyone can get everyone else locked up. There are not many who can withstand the temptation to make use of that kind of power."

Sanna is one of the few who does not use this power, she has her own set of values and she tries to do good by others.

The adulation towards Hitler is demonstrated, when he makes a visit to Frankfurt and Sanna describes the event. She is annoyed that she cannot cross the square, but a friend takes her in hand and she is led up to a crowded balcony with a good view of the cavalcade. The book builds towards a climax with a party organised by Liska; who is desperate to attract the attentions of Heini, Sanna helps her with the preparations and her lover Frantz arrives unexpectedly.

The circle of people milling around the young women, Sanna, Liska, Gerti and others spend much of their leisure time in the local beer halls, there are always Party members, soldiers belonging to the SA or the SS in abundance willing to spend their money. There are a few Jewish people who are still tolerated, because of their usefulness, but they tend to congregate in one of the few beer halls designated for them. Some are making preparations to leave Germany; all are living a ghost like lifestyle, trying not to get noticed. It is a warped and crazy world, but many have adapted and are using it to their own advantage. Sanna is slowly being suffocated.

Sanna's easy going telling of her story, skates over the difficulties for many people at that time, but they are there, under the surface. The patriotism generated by Hitler and the National Socialist Party has swept many people along and changed their view of the world, those that criticise are denounced and become collateral damage. If you ever wondered what it would be like living in a fascist state, then this book would give you a glimpse into the reality.

This is a book from the LRB's list of books to read and it was recommended by Ali Smith - 4 stars. ( )
1 vote baswood | Dec 14, 2023 |
Nachdem sie aus ihren Eifeldorf zur Tante nach Köln gezogen war und von selbiger mehr als schlecht behandelt wurde, lebt Sanna im Winter 1937 schließlich bei ihrem älteren Bruder Algin in Frankfurt. Am Nachmittag hat sie nach Monaten der Stille einen Brief von Franz erhalten, dem Cousin, den sie in Köln zurückließ und heiraten will. Am Abend werde er kommen, er müsse mit ihr reden. Bis dahin durchstreift Sanna mit ihrer Freundin Gerti Kneipen, wohnt dem Besuch des Führers bei und erlebt eine ausufernde Party bei ihrer Schwägerin. Ihre Gedanken springen zwischen Erinnerung und Gegenwart und dokumentieren das Leben in der Großstadt in der dunkelsten Zeit Deutschlands.

Anlässlich des Lesefests „Frankfurt liest ein Buch“ wurde Irmgard Keuns Exilroman „Nach Mitternacht“ neu aufgelegt. Der Erscheinungstermin fiel sicher nicht zufällig mit dem Holocaust-Gedenktag zusammen, gilt der Roman als eines der wichtigsten Dokumente des Alltags in der Naziherrschaft und gibt wie nur wenige andere literarische Werke Einblick in das bürgerliche Leben der Zeit. Keun verfasste weite Teile der Geschichte noch in Deutschland, veröffentlichen musste sie den Roman jedoch zunächst in den Niederlanden und Frankreich.

Die Handlung um Sanna, die auf die Ankunft von Franz wartet, ist dicht und tritt hinter die viel beeindruckenderen dokumentarischen Aspekte des Romans zurück. Getragen werden diese von den Figuren, die die ganze Bandbreite des Lebens repräsentieren. Sannas Freundin Gerti ist naiv und jung und nutzt das Begehren der Männer ohne etwas zu hinterfragen. Ihr loses Mundwerk ist gefährlich, doch immer wieder kommt sie damit durch. Sannas Bruder Algin spürt die Repressalien deutlich, als Autor kann er nicht mehr schreiben, was er möchte, die Zensur ist streng und von dem einst pompösen Leben nach seinen Erfolgen ist wenig geblieben. Tante Adelheid wiederum hat sich bestens mit den neuen Zeiten arrangiert und wacht in ihrem Haus wie eine Bulldogge über die Einhaltung der Nazi Ideologie.

Durch Augen des 18-jährigen Mädchens erlebt man den offenen Judenhass - man mag ja gar nicht glauben, dass die sogar ganz adrett aussehen und nett sein können - SA und SS Männer erscheinen mehr als trinkfreudige Dummköpfe, die man jedoch nicht unterschätzen sollte, wie sich im Laufe des Romans herausstellt.

Absurd geradezu die Inszenierung des Besuchs Hitlers - und dann offenbart sich, dass es eben nicht nur eine Angelegenheit von einigen wenigen Verblendeten war, die aktiv unterstützten, sondern dass sich die Ideologie mit ihrer Doktrin dessen, was gesagt und gedacht werden durfte, bis in die letzte Ecke des Privatlebens hineingeschlichen hatte. In ihren eigenen Wohnungen können sie nicht vor der Politik flüchten und auch wenn sie sich scheinbar teilen in die, die offen unterstützen, und diejenigen, die sich wegducken und wegschauen und nur ihr Leben in Frieden leben wollen, gemeinsam bleibt ihnen jedoch, dass sie sehen und genau wissen, was geschieht.

Ein beeindruckendes Zeitzeugnis, in dem unsagbare Dinge gesagt werden, die man heute plötzlich auch wieder hören kann. Hinter der Aktion „Frankfurt liest ein Buch“ steht die Idee, Literatur zum Gesprächsthema zu machen. Wenn dem Roman dieses Ansinnen auch nur ansatzweise gelingt, ist im Jahr 2022 schon sehr viel erreicht. Dass er zur Pflichtlektüre werden sollte, steht dabei völlig außer Frage. ( )
1 vote miss.mesmerized | Jan 28, 2022 |
Another meh book. ( )
  Jinjer | Jul 19, 2021 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Keun, Irmgardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bell, AntheaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steinbach, Dietrichsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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 Furher 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"--

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