Artificial Silk Girl - Irmgard Keun,  Maria Tatar,  Katharina von Ankum
I first encountered Irmgard Keun when I read [b:After Midnight|10412948|After Midnight|Irmgard Keun||1134532], 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 [b:Gentlemen Prefer Blondes|512704|Gentlemen Prefer Blondes|Anita Loos||6300277]. The novel is mostly set in Berlin in the late 1920s, where working class Doris heads from her hometown after she steals a fur coat. Doris longs for love, fame and fortune - preferably as a movie star - and tells the story of her life in Berlin in the first person. Less a journal and more a series of almost stream of consciousness scenes from her life, Doris goes from one sexual relationship to another in an effort to survive and to succeed.

The work provides an interesting insight into the glitziness and superficiality of Berlin in the late 1920s. Doris is an endearing character, who retains vulnerability and compassion despite the desperate circumstances in which she lives. It's particularly poignant to read about Doris knowing what was to come for people like her and those she cared about in a few short years. And knowing that Keun's work went on to be banned by the Nazis, it's instructive to read something she wrote both before they came to power. However, for all of the strengths of the work and its inherent interest as a historical artifact, I didn't connect with Doris as I did with Sanna in [b:After Midnight|10412948|After Midnight|Irmgard Keun||1134532] and her plight didn't move me as much as I wanted it to. Neither Doris nor the glimpses of Berlin in the 1920s she gave me were enough to keep me really engaged. That said, I still want to read some more of Keun's work.