Irmgard Keun

Ferdinand, the Man with the Kind Heart
  • Ferdinand, the Man with the Kind Heart

  • Bombed-out Cologne after the war is a strange place to be. The black market in jam and corsets is booming, half-destroyed houses offer opportunities for stealing doors and eggcups, and de-Nazification parties are all the rage. Recently released from a prisoner-of-war camp, Ferdinand drifts around the city, strenuously avoiding his fiancée and drinking brandy with his fabulous cousin. But is this any way to go on?

    Told with Keun's characteristic humour, irony and generosity of spirit, this is a wry portrait of a man, a city and a nation that asks how we go on living even in the face of total defeat.

Irmgard Keun was born in Berlin in 1905 and found instant success with her novels Gilgi (1931) and The Artificial Silk Girl (1932). Everything changed in 1933 when the Nazis blacklisted her and destroyed her books; in response, she attempted to sue the Gestapo for loss of earnings. She left Germany (and her husband) in 1936 and lived in exile in Europe, where she wrote Child of All Nations (1936) and After Midnight (1937). She sneaked back into Germany in 1940 under a false name and spent the rest of the war in Cologne. In later years, she wrote for magazines and radio and raised a daughter alone. She died in 1982.

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