$18.00 • 140 pp. • 2005
Translated from the German by Anthony Vivis
To enter Twelve Nights, you must pass through a fractured threshold, placing one foot in lyric, the other in prose glittering with fairy tale and recent past. Ghosts are abroad; memories strike when least expected, biting like animals. These are the hopeful, forgetful times of reconstruction, where masks are exchanged, friends are mistrusted, and those who learned to survive the war betray signs of madness. “How long does misfortune slumber before it wakens?” For Reinshagen’s characters, remembrance is a heroic act. Their stories return to history its essential unreality, the inconceivable inseparable from its fact.
“Born as they often are between too much and too little memory, German writers have only recently ventured above ground in their explorations of German wartime and postwar suffering. With this collection of vignettes, prolific playwright Reinshagen courts memory–taunts it, even–as her characters, often little more than oblique sketches, tell their stories of reconstruction. Readers are similarly challenged: to scrounge similarities and sew meaning across Reinshagen’s 12 narrative ‘nights’ of varying degrees of darkness. Children play-acting out leg amputations; a white muslin dress dyed black and worn and reworn until shiny; Brother Sisyphus covering his canvases with only white primer–like W. G. Sebald, Reinshagen homes in on memory’s affinity for the visually visceral… Readers familiar with the genre will enjoy Reinshagen as a complement to Sebald, Uwe Timm, and Gunter Grass.”
—Brendan Driscoll for Booklist, March 1st, 2005
“At last readers of English can experience the expressiveness and descriptive powers of Gerlind Reinshagen, one of Germany’s foremost living novelists and playwrights.”
—James H. Spohrer for University of California, Berkeley
“Gerlind Reinshagen, who is best known as a dramatist and writer of radio plays, reveals herself as a gifted storyteller. Her compositions are tough, purposeful, laconic. The charm of these texts lies in the tension between the austere narrative framework and the yielding, lyrical language…”
—Pia Reinacher for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
“Twelve Nights is a beautiful and silent book, into which you have to find your way; but once inside, the book won’t let you go until you’ve found a story of your very own.”
Gerlind Reinshagen: An important figure in contemporary German literature and performance, Gerlind Reinshagen is both novelist and playwright, and a member of PEN Germany. Gerlind Reinshagen trained as a pharmacist and later enrolled at the Hochschule der Kunste in Berlin. From 1956 on she made her living as a freelance writer, also writing radio plays and children’s books. Her plays deal with such things as environmental issues and feminism. The film “Himmel und Erde” (1999), directed by Ina Borrmann was based on one of her plays. Twelve Nights is her first novel to be translated into English.
Anthony Vivis has translated several of Reinshagen’s plays, including The Life and Death of Marilyn Monroe. He teaches at the University of East Anglia.