Recently, Nobel Prize for Literature laureate V.S. Naipaul stated in a Guardian interview that no woman writer could ever be his equal due to her innate “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world.” My impulse was to dismiss Naipaul’s misogynist “tosh” as a reflection of his own impoverished psyche; alas, the luxury of dismissal is not yet ours. Naipaul’s words go beyond the man to expose the diseased strain, ancient and pernicious, in our culture’s attitude toward women in general, and in particular toward women who dare to write.
An appreciable antidote to the Naipaulian Scourge is the increased interest in the excavation of women writers by publishers who find and return significant voices that have disappeared from the cultural landscape. To this end, Other Press reissued German author Irmgard Keun’s second novel The Artificial Silk Girl (1932), and Melville House published her third novel After Midnight (1937), the lead title in their tantalizing new series The Neversink Library. These stunning works of literature are searing satires of life under the Third Reich in which fascist ideology is subtly and hilariously subverted, Nazi racism pilloried. (Both books were eventually banned.) The overwhelming power of Keun’s work lies in her surprisingly raw, witty, and resonant feminine voices.
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