The Society for Defiant Women Novel ISBN 9783867890571 624 pages
The action opens in 1928, when Ruth and Maria meet in Café Josty on Potsdamer Platz in Berlin on the same day that Olga has freed her lover and comrade Otto Braun from prison armed with an unloaded pistol. They discuss her defi ance (her Frech heit) somewhat enviously, and Ruth suggests founding a society for defi ant women with Olga as their coach. This society never assumes a more concrete form, but the theme of women who refuse to play the role expected of them and do instead what they believe to be right is central to the novel. As it progresses, more and more women join the ranks of the freche Frauen: the novelist Anna Seghers, for instance, and the photographers Annemarie Schwarzenbach and Gerda Taro.
As the German title suggests, »Das Exil der frechen Frauen« follows its defiant protagonists into exile. Olga is sent to Brazil as the bodyguard of Luís Carlos Prestes, the leader of the 1920s tenente rebellion; Maria spends her exile in Moscow and Paris, and Ruth in Paris and Madrid. But their premature deaths (all died in 1942) are documented in the very fi rst chapter. As Cohen traces the lives of these women, their relationships, their struggles to survive in exile, their experiences of motherhood, their hopes and ideals, their doubts and their fears, the reader already knows of their ineluctable fates.
Robert Cohen, born in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1941, has now lived in the United States for more than twenty-five years and teaches German Literature at New York University. Before turning to German studies, he was a student at »La femis«, the National Film Academy in Paris. He has directed a formidable number of documentaries, industrial films and commercials, for which he has won many awards. His publications on German literature are also numerous, but this book marks his debut as a novelist.
Rights sold to: USA (Dalkey Archive Press)