Thursday, 27 February 2014

Love German Books' Top 10 Berlinerinnen

Top gent Rory MacLean has a top 10 of Berliners in literature at the Guardian. Hooray! So I'm jumping on the bandwagon and steering it headlong into the Year of Reading Women to give you my very own top 10 of Berlin women in books. You might notice that I've actually translated a couple of these books myself. That's partly down to shameless self-promotion and partly because, as a woman in Berlin, I love books about women in Berlin. I refuse to apologize. These women, it turns out, are tough survivors, mothers and daughters, and girls who wanna have fun.

1. Inge Deutschkron in her autobiography Outcast (trans. Jean Steinberg)
Subtitled "A Jewish Girl in Wartime Berlin", the book tells the story of how Inge and her mother survived the Nazis thanks to kind friends and strangers and their own quick wits. 

2. Gina Regina in Ulrike Draesner's story of the same name, in Berlin Tales (ed. Lyn Marven)
Gina has turned her talent into a job, and her talent is seduction – but her job's not what you might think it is.

3. Pola Negri in Daniela Droscher's novel Pola (not translated)
A fictionalized real movie star who fell down on her luck and went back to Nazi Germany from Hollywood. She constantly has her foot in her mouth and is constantly on the lookout for luxury and adventure.

4. Irina in Eugen Ruge's In Times of Fading Light (trans. Anthea Bell)
A fabulous mother character originally from Russia, who can't quite cope with the end of the GDR but manages the rest of her life swimmingly, just about.

5. Mifti in Helene Hegemann's Axolotl Roadkill (trans. Katy Derbyshire)
Mifti is totally fucked up by her dead mother and her life in Berlin. Teenage techno rampages in a precocious voice, but at least she doesn't take heroin. Much.

6. Hell in Inka Parei's The Shadow-Boxing Woman (trans. Katy Derbyshire)
Hell can do martial arts and she can find missing fathers, but finding her neighbour and coming to terms with a traumatic experience are more difficult.

7. Doris in Irmgard Keun's The Artificial Silk Girl (trans. Kathie von Ankum)
Roll over Sally Bowles, here comes Doris. Teetering around 1920s Berlin on the brink of all that, only with a voice of her own to die for.

8. Sugar, Cakes and Candy in Annett Gröschner's Walpurgistag (not translated)
Three outrageous Muslim girls who don't take life or themselves too seriously. And the ending when they run into the three old ladies? Your hearts will melt.

9. Helene in Julia Franck's The Blind Side of the Heart (trans. Anthea Bell)
She deals with one of Franck's obligatory crazy mothers, runs away to live with a louche cousin in Berlin, and ends up a faux-Aryan crazy mother herself, married to a Nazi. And then Helene takes a big decision most women would regret.

10. Flora in Terézia Mora's Das Ungeheuer (not translated)
Flora commits suicide before the novel starts, and her life was not a piece of cake. But her notes show us a sensitive and intelligent woman who kept her problems to herself.

Who are your favourite Berlinerinnen?


Theodor Fontane said...

Effi Briest

kjd said...

You would say that - but yes!

KerryNitz said...

Melanie Brandes and Kati Bauer from Georg Engel's Zauberin Circe (1894)

Rory said...

Marta Hiller and her Anonyma -- A Woman in Berlin -- striking, honest and one of the most important accounts to emerge from the Second World War (unlike its near 'kitsch love tragedy' film adaptation).

kjd said...

Thanks guys!