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The Artificial Silk Girl

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3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  850 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
In 1931, a young woman writer living in Germany was inspired by Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to describe pre-war Berlin and the age of cinematic glamour through the eyes of a woman. The resulting novel, The Artificial Silk Girl, became an acclaimed bestseller and a masterwork of German literature, in the tradition of Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories and Bert ...more
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published August 1st 2002 by Other Press (first published 1932)
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English Translated Fiction
52nd out of 249 books — 25 voters
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Best German/Austrian Literature
263rd out of 615 books — 784 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,686)
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Jim
Jun 12, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jim by: Evan
Shelves: fiction
I am sure that I will read this book again. In fact, I will probably buy a copy...hopefully some entity like Folio Society will publish this gem!

Written in the 1930s, this book could only have been published in Europe, North American social mores and sexual repression being what they were. Some of the thoughts expressed herein concern frank and open (but not specific) sexuality, particularly from the female viewpoint. Female desire and sexual fulfillment...who knew such things existed! So the b
...more
Kim
Jul 04, 2013 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle

I first encountered Irmgard Keun when I read After Midnight, her critique of Nazi Germany expressed in the first person narrative of Sanna, a young German woman who doesn't overtly criticise the Nazis at all. In this, Keun's first novel, the protagonist is Doris, another naïve young German woman. First published in 1931, Keun wrote the novel with the idea that it would be a German version of the hugely successful Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The novel is mostly set in Berlin in the late 1920s, whe
...more
Evan
Jul 04, 2016 Evan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone with taste
Recommended to Evan by: The muses of goodness
"Tilli says, 'Men are nothing but sensual and they only want one thing.' And I say: 'Tilli, sometimes women too are sensual and want only that one thing.'"

A soufflé with a dash of hard liquor at its center, The Artificial Silk Girl is a sly, charming surprise; an undeservedly obscure, lesser-carat literary gem that is nonetheless priceless as a vivid peek into the lives of bohemian poverty and amoral decadence in Germany on the cusp of Hitler's dark age.

The protagonist of this odyssey is an arr
...more
Leah Mayes
Sep 11, 2011 Leah Mayes rated it it was ok
Why is this hailed as a window to pre-Nazi Berlin when the narrator's observations are not especially insightful, about her environs or about the times in general? Why is this hailed as feminist literature when Doris defines herself in terms of how desirable she is to men and chooses to remain blithely ignorant of the world around her unless it involves increasing her desirability and odds of finding a man to take care of her? There is validity in the comparisons to "Sex and the City" and "Bridg ...more
Monica Carter
Jun 07, 2011 Monica Carter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: june-2011
Tilli says: "Men are nothing but sensual and they only want one thing." But I say: "Tilli, sometimes women too are sensual and want only one thing." And there's no difference. Because sometimes I only want to wake up with someone in the morning, all messed up from kissing and half dead and without any energy to think, but wonderfully tires and rested at the same time. But you don't have to give a hoot otherwise. And there's nothing wrong with it, because both have the same feeling and want the
...more
Viktoria
Mar 14, 2010 Viktoria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
das muss man einfach gelesen haben! eine bessere beschreibung des lebensgefühls der 20er jahre gibt es nicht!!!!
Friederike Knabe
Oct 13, 2011 Friederike Knabe rated it really liked it
Shelves: german-lit
There is nothing fake or artificial about the heroine of this surprising work of fiction. First published in 1932 in Germany, it was followed very quickly by its English translation in 1933. It was an immediate hit for a young author's second novel; praised for its pointed sense of humour as well as the underlying critique of society. The story, written in the form of the central character's musings and diary, blends a young woman's daily struggles to make ends meet with an at times sarcastic ye ...more
Sandra
Aug 31, 2011 Sandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Das Kunstseidene Mädchen (The Artificial Silk Girl) is a book by Irmgard Keun, written in the time of the Weimarer Republik (pre-Nazi Germany). The book is a diary of sorts, without the "Dear diary" sentences. This is just Doris writing what she wants whenever she wants.

Doris is an interesting character. She's living in a middle-large city and bored to death by her job. She describes herself as not that pretty, but she must have been interesting enough, because many men seem to want her, her bos
...more
Tuck
Jul 27, 2011 Tuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a classic of feminist lit, from 1931 Germany!! About a strong -- if young party-hard, bad decision making -- woman who's just trying to get over (thanks every day Curtis Mayfield), and does, for the most part. Sure she has to lie some, fake organisms, cadge drinks, lift the occasional haute couture (sp?) item, work at crummy jobs for low pay, freeze her ass off in shitty apartments, have pretty bad hangovers, dance till her feet ache, hide from nazis, etc etc. all in the day of a young woman any ...more
Julia
Jul 19, 2015 Julia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, 00-standalone
Inhalt: Doris ist Sekretärin bei einem zudringlichen Rechtsanwalt. Sie will nicht mehr tagaus, tagein lange Briefe tippen, sondern ein Star werden. Sie will in die große Welt, ins Berlin der Roaring Twenties…
Irmgard Keun hat Doris‘ kunstseidene Abenteuer „naiv und brillant, witzig und verzweifelt, volkstümlich und feurig“ beschrieben (Hermann Kesten). Bunte Unterhaltung in Verbindung mit satirischer Zeitkritik – eine seltene Einheit. (Quelle: Buch)

Vor der Rezension: In Klassik Edition stelle ich
...more
Susan
Aug 08, 2007 Susan rated it really liked it
a quick read, a faux memoir, very direct voice, a good window into 30s germany thru a working-class girl's eyes, lots of universal themes. i really enjoyed it.
Wendy
Jul 17, 2012 Wendy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
First published in 1932, taking place in Berlin, this is the story of an uneducated girl
trying to “make it” in any kind of profession: her one goal is to be rich and not have to worry, no matter how she does it. I found the descriptors of the book to be misleading “Damned by the Nazis, hailed by the feminists…”). Looking at content, this one is difficult for me. As always, I’m happy to find out bits of historical information that I didn’t know I didn’t know (for example, in order for our heroin
...more
Isa K.
Sep 04, 2011 Isa K. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: galleys
Full disclosure: I may have accidentally stolen this book from BEA ^_^;;;;; You know in the exhibit hall publisher booths are piled high and deep with galleys for people to take for free, but as I was cracking the spine on this one I realized that I hadn't picked it up from a pile of identical copies. Oh it was a galley all right, but it was one of only a handful of copies and sometimes pubs bring these along as 'display only' samples.

So Other Press, if this gem wasn't meant to walk away from th
...more
Nicki Markus
Jul 27, 2011 Nicki Markus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first few pages of this book, I really struggled, trying to follow as Doris shifted from one thought to another, segueing from topic to topic with no real pause. That is why I have always had a general dislike for stream of consciousness novels.

Anyhow, I persevered and gradually found myself getting into the flow of the prose.

The story is simple enough, following Doris as she moves through a string of men and troubles in Berlin in the early 1930's. You get a great sense of time and place fr
...more
James
Mar 21, 2009 James rated it really liked it
Irmgard Keun's beautiful novel of working class women in the 1930s is a comic and realistic account. A young girl goes to Berlin to make her way and finds life difficult. The story's realism makes the protagonist more sympathetic in her struggles with life. While a distant relative of Dreiser's Carrie this story reminded me more of the Berlin of Alfred Doblin in the sense that we see people whose lives are on the edge during a time of dramatic change. In many ways this is a miniature version of ...more
Sergiu Pobereznic
Jul 24, 2015 Sergiu Pobereznic rated it it was amazing
I feel as though I have been in the driving seat of a woman's mind during the early 1930s of pre-Nazi Germany. Not just any kind of woman, though. The protagonist, Doris, with a lack of education, is a material girl who hopes to achieve a higher status in society by garnering the attentions of successful men and sleeping her way to the top. Three of them in fact, with varying degrees of success and conclusions. It is both funny and sad.
Because it is a social critique, this novel's publication wa
...more
Pascale
Feb 13, 2015 Pascale rated it it was amazing
Wise, moving, funny: this book has EVERYTHING. I love the voice of Doris, a waif with a big heart who has a hard time surviving on the streets of 1932 Berlin. After a couple of nasty experiences with lecherous bosses, Doris decides she'd rather do just about anything else than work for a living. Like many pretty girls, she has vague dreams of making it as an actress, but she is too shrewd to believe in her own fantasies of instant stardom. She is painfully aware of her lack of education, and of ...more
Jen
Apr 28, 2014 Jen rated it really liked it
Shelves: rhul, 2014, spring-14
i feel like people don't like this book, but i really did? it's like right up my alley of 1900s gossip girl; if you liked house of mirth you'll like this. actually this was easier and less dense than house of mirth, but still. i think it's easy to hate or dislike doris for being shallow and materialistic but it's important to remember that she is a young girl trying to make it in berlin, she's places a lot of importance on having material goods because of her experiences - like, she's learned th ...more
manatee
Who knew that social climbing in Weimar Germany could be so funny. Doris is a flighty, determined and wry narrator who is trying (and failing) to sleep her way to the top.

She has many hilarious descriptions as she shares her view of everyday people in Berlin just as the Nazis are gaining prominence. Just so that you get an idea of the tone of the book ,it is important to note that one of the main characters in this novel is Doris's fur coat, with whom she has a loving relationship.

It is imperat
...more
Kevin
Nov 20, 2013 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really pleasant surprise. I seemed to be tempted to underline every fourth paragraph, as Doris spews out mostly unfiltered truths with a down-to-earth voice, cloaked in just enough naivety to produce a comic effect but not mocking enough to discount her very real observations. For a book written in the 1930s, it seems like the kind of writing you'd find on a tumblr - and I think that is awesome.
Valerie
Sep 23, 2015 Valerie rated it liked it
The year is 1931, and Berlin is full of balding veterans eager to buy a pretty girl wine and emu-leather shoes, at least while their wives are out of town. Enter Doris. An 18-year old from the Rhineland valley, and in her own mind, the world's next Marlene Dietrich. Doris never falls in love, and is certain she understands the game of sex. But after she steals a fur coat in order to look fabulous for a meeting with her ex-lover, she winds up hiding from the authorities in the big city, with no m ...more
Cerisaye
I really enjoyed this novel, a quick read, that tells the story of Doris, a young woman from a small German town who moves to Berlin following her dream of becoming a shining star of cinema. An ambition we know only too well is almost certainly hopeless.

Doris can be somewhat shallow and judgmental, she is not averse to thievery (for e.g. a beautiful fur coat becomes a second skin, a bit of glamour that also serves the practical purpose of keeping her warm), she sponges off friends and a series
...more
Kimmo Sinivuori
If the book was burned by the Nazis it can't be bad. This is a nice snapshot of Berlin during the last days of the Weimar Republic. I find it quite amazing that this could have been written by a young lady in the early 1930's. Well worth a read.
Avd.Reader
English title: The Artificial Silk Girl
The book was published in Germany in 1932. It is written in the form of a diary and is the story of a young woman's struggles to make ends meet under the dreary economic conditions in the final days of the Weimar Republic. The tone of the story is lighthearted, blending the colloquial language of the working class heroine Doris with Berlin dialect and idioms. Doris is at once nave and shrewd and has her heart set upon becoming a movie star. "I want to be a
...more
Oriana
Dec 27, 2011 Oriana marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-read-soon
compared to Isherwood's Berlin Stories, suppressed / destroyed by the Nazis, and recently republished in a new translation by Other Press? YESSSSSS
Kristin
May 22, 2011 Kristin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
wie ein weiblicher chatcher in the rye...
Marilyn Moreau
Apr 09, 2015 Marilyn Moreau rated it really liked it
A German Holly Golightly/Sally Bowles
Bücherfresser
"Bubikopf, schlanke Taille, sportlicher Körper. Das Frauenbild der 20er Jahre."

Inhalt:
Doris will nicht mehr arbeiten. Sie will ein Glanz werden und sich absondern von der Normalität. Ihr Schicksal führt sie nach Berlin, wo sie ein Leben zwischen besitzen und besitzlos führt. Dennoch gibt sie ihre Ziele nicht auf, hört auf zu arbeiten und umgarnt ältere Männer um gut bis luxuriös leben zu können. Doch selbst dieser Lebensstil vergeht irgendwann …


Meinung:
„Das kunstseidene Mädchen“ ist der zweite R
...more
Lily
Dec 07, 2013 Lily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faves
It's been a while since I loved a book so much. Doris was a cross between Holly Golightly and Sally Bowles, with some extra destitution thrown in. She was such a misanthrope, but she was still so desperate for love, in any form. She was so materialistic and nasty at times to other women (and sometimes men) but she remained so likeable. You just rooted for her in her search for a--for lack of a better word--sugar daddy and/or fame and fortune on the stage. It's funny, the present day iteration of ...more
Carolyn
Jul 02, 2009 Carolyn rated it liked it
I bought this book in the hopes of using it for a research project on narratives of female Jewish authors in Europe, but realized very quickly that it wasn't appropriate (in retrospect, I can't find any mention of Keun being Jewish online, so I'm not sure how I ended up choosing this at all). Nonetheless, it was an incredibly interesting read, written in a lighthearted style that deceptively serves to strengthen its underlying political messages about female sexual morality in the Weimar era. I ...more
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176408
Irmgard Keun (February 6, 1905 – May 5, 1982) was a German author noteworthy both for her portrayals of life in the Weimar Republic as well as the early years of the Nazi Germany era.

(from Wikipedia)
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“They have courses teaching you foreign languages and ballroom dancing and etiquette and cooking. But there are no classes to learn how to be by yourself in a furnished room with chipped dishes, or how to be alone in general without any words of concern or familiar sounds.” 5 likes
“Vater unser, mach mir noch mit einem Wunder eine feine Bildung
- das Übrige kann ich ja selbst machen mit Schminke.”
4 likes
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