Keun's first two novels were German best-sellers before being burned by the Third Reich. She wrote After Midnight while in exile, and it provides a rich and jangling portrait of prewar Germany, where neighbor rushed to inform on neighbor and ""non-Aryans"" disappeared silently into the night. Told from the point of view of a 19-year-old girl, Sanna Moder, who goes to live in Frankfurt with her half-brother, Algin (a writer once critical of the National Socialist Party, now writing Nazi novels), the book's tone is subdued but disturbing. In Algin's circle there are a cynical journalist who shoots himself in the head at a party; a Nazi newspaper peddler who has developed a divining rod that gyrates when it comes in contact with Jews; and a sweet little five-year-old who keels over dead on a table in a crowded cafe after greeting the Fuhrer. Sanna, who's been incarcerated briefly for saying that Hitler sweats profusely and Goring's speeches are boring, learns slowly that, ""If you stop and think of it, you realize what an awful lot of nonsense people talk."" She finally flees Germany with her cousin Franz, even though she knows that she goes to a place where ""The roofs that you see are not built for you. The bread that you smell is not baked for you. And the speech that you hear is not spoken for you."" While this lacks the biting ironies of Isherwood's Berlin Stories, it is nonetheless simply and sensitively written, an important contribution to the literature of the period.
Pub Date: March 1, 1988
Page Count: -
Publisher: Victor Gollancz--dist. by David & Charles