Set in the German Democratic Republic of the early 1970s, The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice
—a landmark novel now translated into English for the first time—is a highly entertaining adventure story as well as a feminist critique of GDR socialism, science, history, and aesthetic theory.
In May 1968, after an eight-hundred-year sleep, Beatrice awakens in her Provence château. Looking for work, she makes her way to Paris in the aftermath of the student uprisings, then to the GDR (recommended to her as the “promised land for women”), where she meets Laura Salman, socialist trolley driver, writer, and single mother, who becomes her minstrel and alter ego. Their exploits—Beatrice on a quest to find the unicorn, Laura on maternity leave in Berlin—often require black-magic interventions by the Beautiful Melusine, who is half dragon and half woman.
Creating a montage of genres and text types, including documentary material, poems, fairy tales, interviews, letters, newspaper reports, theoretical texts, excerpts from earlier books of her own, pieces by other writers, and parodies of typical GDR genres, Irmtraud Morgner attempts to write women into history and retell our great myths from a feminist perspective.
"A first English translation of a very unusual novel, originally published in 1974, combines political satire with feminist-inspired romance in a demanding fictional potpourri whose German author (1933-90) may really have been a contemporary Cervantes. . . . The tale of Beatrice's journey (also Dantesque) through a modern inferno and purgatory, marriages and affairs, artistic endeavors and political infatuations and adventures is brilliantly amplified by Morgner's use of mythic archetypes . . . [and] detailed allusions to postwar German history and culture. . . . Literary antecedents and all, this is a one-of-a-kind novel: richly imagined, more than a little forbidding, preternaturally astute, altogether unforgettable."—Kirkus
"It presents a magnificent blend of fantasy, realism, history, myths, and fairy tales woven around the woman troubadour Beatrice de Dia. . . . . Clausen is to be applauded for taking on the challenge of translating this multifarious work. Her readable translation and extensive glossary provide English readers with a unique example of GDR literature. Recommended for general and academic readers."—Choice