Then there's Sanna's older stepbrother, Algin, a highly successful novelist — until his books were banned by the Nazis. Facing the fact that he will remain "undesirable" unless he writes a Nazi novel, he contemplates writing a long poem about Hitler. Yet as a journalist friend observes, the Nazis have made Germany "a perfect country, and a perfect country doesn't need writers."
With its descriptive yet sparse prose, After Midnight reveals the pervasive effect politics had on normal life in Nazi Germany. Sanna's narration adds touches of innocence, satire and normalcy to a tale of people who, one way or another, have become outsiders in their own country. With the mix of people Sanna knows, her thoughts and their comments, the book provides a perspective on day to day life in pre-war Germany a work of nonfiction would find it difficult to capture.
Algin's story seems to have a basis in Keun's own life. She wrote bestselling novels but once the Nazis took power the books were withdrawn from circulation. Keun, in fact, even dared to seek damages from the Gestapo for lost profits after it seized unsold copies of the novels. While she fled the country in 1936, she published several novels in Amsterdam, including After Midnight. She then returned to Germany in 1940 under an assumed name and lived there until the end of the war.
After Midnight made its first U.S. appearance in 1938. This translation, by Althea Bell, was published in the U.K. in 1985 but is now the first release in Melville House's Neversink Library, a series of "books from around the world that have been overlooked, underappreciated, looked askance at, or foolishly ignored." In addition to being an excellent work, After Midnight is a superb start to that series.