DAS KUNSTSEIDENE MÄDCHEN
Irmgard Keun's 1931 novel, "Das Kunstseidene Mädchen", which has been translated into English as "The Artificial Silk Girl", is one of the most famous of Germany's `Neue Sachlichkeiten' works. This particular novel, in which the protagonist, Doris, a young working class German girl from Cologne, who dreams of the glitz and glamour and bright lights of the big city, Berlin - in her own words, she wants to be a "Glanz""Glamour Girl" - suffered subsequent censorship at the hands of Hitler's Nazi regime. This was due to the manner in which Doris is portrayed. Her behaviour and attitude towards men and her sexual relationships all greatly disturbed the National Socialist German society, which in effect deemed "Das Kunstseidene Mädchen" as anti-German, stating it possessed "antideutschen Tendenzen" . The uncompromising depiction of independent, self assured young women with goals out with the boundaries of being dependent on men was clearly "das Gegenteil des Hitler-Mädels-Ideals..." /"the opposite of Hitler's Young-Girl-Ideals." The intention of this essay, therefore, is to demonstrate the contrast in Doris' feelings for two of her lovers - Hubert, the student who also stays in Cologne, and with whom Doris claims she's "in love" with at the very beginning of the novel, and Ernst, the nice, `white-collar' man whose wife recently left him and who is reminded of his wife by Doris.
Firstly, in the opening pages of the novel, the reader discovers that Hubert is the only man, out of all her lovers, that she's in love with. Instantly from reading this one could suggest that this in itself is somewhat of a peculiar statement - Doris has other lovers, but believes only to be in love with this single one. This definitely challenges the traditional concept of love, in that the general consensus tends to be one of monogamy, especially for women. This, in comparison to her relationship with Ernst, whereby by this stage he is the only man she is having a sexual relationship with, and the eventual collapse of her and Ernst's relationship caused by Doris' discovery that Ernst is in fact still in love with his estranged wife, would indicate that, although her feelings for Hubert may have been extremely strong and register very deeply in her - "Mein Herz ist ein Gramophon und spielt aufregend mit spitzer Nadel in meiner Brust...""My heart is a gramophone and plays excitedly in my breast with sharpened needles..." Her feelings are merely those of a young, naive girl who does not yet fully understand the complexities of love. She is perhaps simply infatuated rather than in love. This is again accentuated when she shares one of her experiences of sleeping with Hubert, and immediately regrets it;
."..das machte mich böse und voll Ekel. Mit einem Fremden schlafen...machte eine Frau schlecht.""that made me feel and bad and totally disgusted. Sleeping with a stranger...makes a woman feel bad."