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@Read Book ô Gilgi, eine von uns Ò The stirring, never before translated story of a single, pregnant, and wickedly nervy young secretary making her way through a Germany succumbing to the NazisIrmgard Keun s first novelGilgi was an overnight sensation upon its initial publication in Germany, selling thousands of copies, inspiring numerous imitators, and making Keun a household name a reputation that was only heightened when, a few years later, the nervy Keun sued the Gestapo for blocking her royaltiesThe story of a young woman trying to establish her independence in a society being overtaken by fascism, Gilgi was not only a brave story, but revolutionary in its depiction of women s issues, at the same time that it was, simply, an absorbing and stirring tale of a dauntless spirit Gilgi is a secretary in a hosiery firm, but she doesn t intend to stay there for long she s disciplined and ambitious, taking language classes, saving up money to go abroad, and carefully avoiding both the pawing of her boss and any other prolonged romantic entanglements But then she falls in love with Martin, a charming drifter, and leaves her job for domestic bliss which turns out not to be all that blissful and Gilgi finds herself pregnant and facing a number of moral dilemmasRevolutionary at the time for its treatment of sexual harassment, abortion, single motherhood, and the New Woman, Gilgi remains a perceptive and beautifully constructed novel about one woman s path to maturity It is presented here in its first ever translation into English First published in Germany in 1931 to immediate acclaim, but not translated into English until 2013, Gilgi, One of Us tells the story of a 21 year old woman who is initially presented as highly independent and ambitious She works two jobs and takes several foreign language courses, aiming to improve her station in life, which is laid out in front of you like a neatly solved mathematical problem p 56 But that was before Gilgi met Martin Bruck, an older man whose worldliness and carefree wa First published in Germany in 1931 to immediate acclaim, but not translated into English until 2013, Gilgi, One of Us tells the story of a 21 year old woman who is initially presented as highly independent and ambitious She works two jobs and takes several foreign language courses, aiming to improve her station in life, which is laid out in front of you like a neatly solved mathematical problem p 56 But that was before Gilgi met Martin Bruck, an older man whose worldliness and carefree ways seem irresistibly attractive Before long, Gilgi has moved in with Martin who lives in borrowed Cologne quarters while freely spending his modest income , and she soon surrenders full time employment to full time love For a time, passion supplies what money does not, but to a contemporary reader, at least, the romantic relationship is seriously compromised by Martin s incredibly patronizing attitude toward Little Gilgi Midway through the story, an old boyfriend of Gilgi happens to knock on the door Martin is temporarily away from the premises Hans, currently a traveling salesman, is hawking floor wax as his life circumstances are growing increasingly desperate Later on, Hans reappears, now on the brink of financial ruin and begging for assistance Gilgi impulsively decides to help him out, but lacking sufficient resources of her own, she is driven to seek long awaited recognition plus compensation from her birth mother The ensuing plot leads to moral complexities and life changing circumstances.For its time Gilgi, One of Us must have been a decidedly progressive piece of work, with themes supporting women s equality, premarital sex, and abortion choice, so it s not exactly clear in what sense the protagonist was supposed to be one of us back in 1931 Although cast in the shadow of the looming Nazi rise to power, the book s focus is muchpersonal than political, as author Irmgard Keun s prose alternates between psychological probes of her characters, and dialogues between them Gilgi is a novel well worth its 210 pages This is my third book by Irmgard Keun within a week, and now I have run out of supply German books being rare here generally speaking, and Irmgard Keun even rarer still , so I will give my fellow Goodreaders a break after this review.Why this compulsive reading of an author who was virtually unknown to me before Christmas Gilgi explains it Keun s first novel, written at the age of 26 in 1931, explores the new conditions for women in the world after the First World War, a world of new rules and This is my third book by Irmgard Keun within a week, and now I have run out of supply German books being rare here generally speaking, and Irmgard Keun even rarer still , so I will give my fellow Goodreaders a break after this review.Why this compulsive reading of an author who was virtually unknown to me before Christmas Gilgi explains it Keun s first novel, written at the age of 26 in 1931, explores the new conditions for women in the world after the First World War, a world of new rules and possibilities and of old sorrows and problems Gilgi s dream is to be independent, autonomous, free from the identity shattering bondage of married life She navigates the city of K ln in the throes of the financial crisis with open eyes and resilience, watching the poverty and the exploitation of the weak by those who can afford it while celebrating a room of her own and a salary to keep her going Sexuality is both a new bliss and a looming danger, as men still see women as objects to serve their needs rather than as people to share ideas with, but Gilgi and her friend Olga are comfortably aware that they have a deeper solidarity and friendship between them than the lonely men they meet in pubs and in clubs, boasting about their masculinity without feeling true, honest connection in their chosen tribes In women, the world changes, Gilgi believes.The one thing that threatens her freedom is her sudden infatuation with irresponsible Martin, who wants her to himself and discourages her from working and staying on track to follow her ideals Love is the poison that destroys Gilgi s individual goals, while it makes her feel alive and vulnerable like never before.Finding herself pregnant, without work, and in a relationship with a person who will never take responsibility, she makes the ultimate sacrifice and leaves her town to start afresh on her own, with her child, in Berlin On the last page, we stand at the station and wave to a young girl who has learned to trust herselfthan anyone else, and who is willing to step into the unknown to make life possible for the child she carries No wonder Irmgard Keun s female characters were banned by the Nazis a few years later Such independence of thought and action in a woman wasthan threatening to the breeding ideal of a German mother figure it was an outright rebellion Gilgi set an example Gilgi full title, Gilgi, One Of Us has been presented in a new English translation as part of Melville House Publishing s Neversink Library collection First published in its original German in 1931, Irmgard Keun s debut novel, published when she was just twenty six, has been rendered into the most beautiful English prose by Geoff Wilkes In Germany, Gilgi became an overnight sensation, and Keun was driven to sue the Gestapo several years afterwards for blocking her royalties.The protagonist o Gilgi full title, Gilgi, One Of Us has been presented in a new English translation as part of Melville House Publishing s Neversink Library collection First published in its original German in 1931, Irmgard Keun s debut novel, published when she was just twenty six, has been rendered into the most beautiful English prose by Geoff Wilkes In Germany, Gilgi became an overnight sensation, and Keun was driven to sue the Gestapo several years afterwards for blocking her royalties.The protagonist of Gilgi is Gisela Kron, a disciplined and ambitious secretary in a hosiery business Immediately admirable with her hardworking stubbornness, she is desperately trying to establish her independence in a society being overtaken by fascism Falling in love, however, is a fateful choice which will unmoor Gilgi from her own position in the world, that which she has fought for so long to uphold Gilgi is essentially a coming of age novel whilst Gilgi is biologically older than a character whom we might expect to undergo such a formative transformation, she learns much about the world around her, and about herself, as the novel progresses She is made aware of her own strengths and weaknesses, and the place which she occupies in both public and private spheres in her home city of Cologne.Keun s choice of opening is fascinating, and very much sets the tone for the whole She s holding it firmly in her hands, her little life, the girl Gilgi She calls herself Gilgi, her name is Gisela The two i s sic are better suited to slim legs and narrow hips like a child s, to tiny fashionable hats which contrive mysteriously to stay perched on the very top of her head When she s twenty five, she ll call herself Gisela But she s not at that point quite yet She is a cool headed character, and faced with many of the challenges as she is, many other protagonists would have inevitably had some sort of breakdown or existential crisis Not Gilgi She is a firm believer in dealing with everything thrown at one, and she does so largely flawlessly.Gilgi s familial situation is exposed to the reader almost immediately No one speaks Everyone is earnestly and dully occupied with their own concerns The complete lack of conversation testifies to the family s decency and legitimacy Herr and Frau Kron have stuck together through years of honorable tedium to their silver wedding anniversary They love each other, and are faithful to each other, something which has become a matter of routine, and no longer needs to be discussed, or felt Gilgi is very of its time Keun is never far away from inserting snippets of social history, or the economic struggles which many around Gilgi faced on a daily basis So many issues which are still of much importance in our modern society are tackled here patriarchy, sexual relations, pregnancy out of wedlock, and the very concept of womanhood It is an astoundingly frank work, both piercingly perceptive and formally innovative Gilgi is told on the morning of her twenty first birthday, for instance, that her parents are not biologically hers, and then given the details of her birth mother.Gilgi herself provides a contrast to the societal norms held for women during the period she is proactive, has her own job, and pays for her own things I want to work, want to get on, want to be self supporting and independent At the moment I m learning my languages I m saving money She may still live at home with the Krons who raised her, but she makes clear that her biggest aim in life is to fund her own apartment Until she meets Martin, the idea of being a kept woman repulses her indeed, even with Martin, Keun has allowed Gilgi her independence The pair move in with one another to the vacant apartment of one of Martin s friends he is unshakeable in his existence and largely lives hand to mouth, so it is up to Gilgi to work and pay for everything Again, tradition is eschewed here, and Keun demonstrates to a point that a woman of the period could make things work by herself Gilgi s grand ambitions still live within her, even when she becomes conscious that they are not perhaps achievable due to the pregnancy which befalls her naive self.I was put in mind of reading Dorothy Richardson s Pilgrimage at several points during the novel the narrative voice which Keun has crafted simultaneously weaves the first and third person perspectives together in a beguiling manner There is a wonderful stream of consciousness approach to the whole in places Gilgi is a fascinating, deeply complex, and thoroughly realistic character Each individual consequence which she has to face is tackled with the utmost verisimilitude Gilgi is a stunning novel, with prose echoes of Hans Fallada and Stefan Zweig It is absolutely wonderful, and sure to delight those with a fondness for strong female characters, or who want to read a striking piece of translated literature 3.5 stars