Child of All Nation by Irmgard Keun

Child of All Nation by Irmgard Keun

German fiction

Original title – Kind aller Länder

Translator -Michael Hofmann

Source – Personal copy

We go back with my next read for German Lit Month and a  modern Classic a book that seem to be everywhere last year I hadn’t read anything by her I was vaguely aware of her connection to Roth not sure if I heard a review of one of her books or read it in another book. She had been married but left her husband in the early thirties when he got drawn in by the Nazi party. She then had a relationship with a Jewish doctor then spent time with the writer Joseph Roth and she traveled around Europe he was a huge influence on her writing. it is felt that the father figure in the book is a write like Joseph Roth. Like Roth, he also criticized the Nazis Keun herself had seen her books withdrawn by the Nazis. A gem of pre-war german Literature that signaled what was to come and the attempt to flee from the shadow of the Nazis.

Then my father suddenly walked into our hotel room where I was crying and my mother ewas groaning, and said to my mother. “Well a mircale has happened – it might yet save us. I’ve just had a call from Tulpe. You don’t know him; well, I don’t know him either, I crossed paths with him once in Berlin. He reads my books , heard I was in town, called me. He travels in Ladies underwear, I beleive; probably has a bank account- rock solid character. Two thousand francs will be enough to get us out of trouble. I can’t pay him back with the fights to the polish translations. The money for that is due in the next few weeks.

Her father tries to scrape together enough money for them to get by.

I am a fan of child narrators when done well and here in Kully the ten-year-old daughter of Peter a writer who is outspoken about the changes he has seen in the time since the Nazis seized power in Germany (much the same as Roth did at the time). This means that Kully her mother and her father are exiled from Germany what we see is the journey around Europe from hotel to hotel as they head from country to country as their visas, funds, and options dwindle a journey that many made at the time. But as this also happens her father is still talking and wanted. He is a chancer and liar to ht mother and her. He is trying to get as they are constantly on the run though he is constantly wanting the family to move on from hotel to hotel but as he heads out to settle them in a new hotel leaving her l=mother and her to sneak off. We see a girl that is a bit wild she smokes sees what is happening but has that childlike view of what is happening she is just caught up in the journey here there and everywhere. A path that many did in those pre-war years.

My mother says my father can’t settle the hotel bill from Warsaw anyway, because the Polish goverment dosen’t alow you to send mony out of Poland. My father often tells fibs to get a bit of peace and quiet. We’re happy about that sometimes, though he performs miracles and everything he says comes true.

My mother is crimping her hair in front of the mirror, she wants to have a round curl either side of her fac, to make her look beautiful.If she looks beautiful, she feels better abiout walking through the lobby, or talking to people to ask them for money: I don’t mind not looking beauitful.

I loved this image of her mother very thirties sounding

I said I like Child narrators when they are done well and Kully voice is so evocative a girl that is a little wild due to the lack of boundaries she is a brat but she is caught in this downward spiral of running from Place to Place. This is a book I am pleased I tried I tend to be put off when I see translations that seem overhyped or here there and everywhere. In  Peter, we have a writer that is like Roth a writer that stirred up the Nazis Roth himself like Peter went out of Germany when Hitler came to power. Roth never got fully away. This is like the Passenger I read earlier this year we see the journey of trying to escape the the Nazis. This is a path that many trod at the time and here we have an angle from the view of a child grasping at the facts seeing her father pushed out aware of what happens but in the black and white nature only children have. I must read her other books which would you recommend?

Winstons score – B a child’s eye view of a horrific time

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Nov 10, 2021 @ 20:39:37

    It’s a great book, isn’t it Stu, though possibly not my favourite Keun. She really does capture the child narrator’s voice quite brilliantly.

    Reply

  2. Lisa Hill
    Nov 10, 2021 @ 23:56:24

    I’ve got my copy of The Passenger now, I’ll be reading it soon.

    Reply

  3. Trackback: That was the month that was November 2021 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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