9780879237059 / 0879237058

An Admirable Woman


4.29 avg rating7 ratings by GoodReads

Publisher:David R Godine, 1988



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About the book:

This arresting contemporary novel is the story of Erika Hertz, one of those magnetic German Jewish intellectuals driven from Germany by the Nazis, who becomes a legend in America. "Admirable," the word Erika accepts for herself, is taken from an academic's compliment and turned over and over in the auto-biographical narrative as if it were a diamond suspected of flaws.

An Admirable Woman is her book, told in her American voice, a voice in which the ghost of her German hovers like a lost homeland. She is the daughter of not-so-Jewish Berlin Jews for whom the coming of the Nazis is a surprise they misread. For Erika, political reality is less of a secret, and she leaves the university for Paris with Martens the older, Aryan, art historian lover she has married. Paris, bristling with refugees, is meager, and so, with the thin promise of a job for Martens in America, they leave.

Erika goes through the writer's grubstreet routines in New York, overcomes the numbing disorientation so many refugees feel, and slowly acquires a substantial, and substantially intimidating, reputation in modern intellectual history. Her success she becomes one of those whose work the well-informed everywhere must know is not matched by Martens, and, as their live together dwindles to his death, it is counterpointed by her affair with a famous musician. But even this sweetness cannot breach Erika's insular self-sufficiency and so change the nature of her life.

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