Ferdinand, The Man with the Kind Heart
By Irmgard Keun
The last novel from the acclaimed author of The Artificial Silk Girl, this 1950 classic paints a delightfully shrewd portrait of postwar German society.
Upon his release from a prisoner-of-war camp, Ferdinand Timpe returns somewhat uneasily to civilian life in Cologne. Having survived against the odds, he is now faced with a very different sort of dilemma: How to get rid of his fiancée? Although he certainly doesn’t love the mild-mannered Luise, Ferdinand is too considerate to break off the engagement himself, so he sets about finding her a suitable replacement husband—no easy task given Luise’s high standards and those of her father, formerly a proud middle-ranking Nazi official.
Featuring a lively cast of characters—from Ferdinand’s unscrupulous landlady with her black-market schemes to his beguiling cousin Johanna and the many loves of her life—Ferdinand captures a distinct moment in Germany’s history, when its people were coming to terms with World War II and searching for a way forward. In Irmgard Keun’s effervescent prose, the story feels remarkably modern.
“[A] marvelous writer…infused with [Keun’s] trademark wit, candor, and emotional intensity…[Ferdinand] comprises a series of tightly packed vignettes and quietly captivating portraits…the prose has bite and charm.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Keun (1905–1982) shows a sure hand in this biting sendup of postwar Germany, full of absurd moments and amusing foibles. It’s a genuinely funny, ambling story full of sharp character studies.” —Publishers Weekly