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Author Information: Irmgard Keun



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Irmgard Keun was born in Berlin in 1905. After a stint as a stenographer in Cologne, she started training at the local drama school. Her acting career culminated in an engagement at the renowned Thalia Theater in Hamburg.

In 1931, at age 21, she published her first novel, Gilgi—a Girl Just Like Us, the story of a stenographer who sacrifices her professional ambitions for a passionate love affair. Her second novel, The Artificial Silk Girl, appeared only one year later, and instantly became a bestseller.

With the rise of the Nazis in 1933, Keun's books were blacklisted. The author left Germany for Belgium in 1936, and later for the Netherlands, where she met fellow exiles Stefan Zweig, Ernst Toller, Hermann Kesten, and Joseph Roth. Keun published three more novels in exile. In 1940, the Nazis conquered Holland, forcing her to return to Germany, where she survived the war in hiding.

After the war, Keun continued her literary career but enjoyed only modest success, until her early novels were rediscovered and reissued in the late 1970s—in the wake of the feminist movement in Germany.

Keun refused the many invitations to document her tumultuous life in an autobiography. She died in 1982 in Cologne.


©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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