Kully knows some things you don't learn at school. She knows the right way to roll a cigarette and pack a suitcase.
She knows that cars are more dangerous than lions. She knows you can't enter a country without a passport or visa. And she knows that she and her parents can't go back to Germany again - her father's books are banned there.
But there are also things she doesn't understand, like why there might be a war in Europe - just that there are men named Hitler, Mussolini and Chamberlain involved.
Little Kully is far more interested where their next meal will come from and the ladies who seem to buzz around her father.
Meanwhile she and her parents roam through Europe. Her mother would just like to settle down, but as her restless father struggles to find a new publisher, the three must escape from country to country as their visas expire, money runs out and hotel bills mount up.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 208 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 29/01/2009
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780141188454
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Review by pamelad
Child of All Nations by Irmgard KeunUnable to publish, with her books banned, Irmgard Keun joined the German literary diaspora in Europe. From June 1936 until January 1938 she travelled with Joseph Roth. They borrowed from acquaintances, extracted advances from publishers, and lived on credit, moving on when their visas expired. Kully, the nine-year old narrator of [Child of All Nations] travels the same route as Keun and Roth. The character of her unreliable, extravagant father may even be based on Roth.The book begins with Kully and her mother, Annie, stranded penniless in a first-class hotel in Ostende while Kully's father tries to raise money in Prague. Annie and Kully avoid the front desk and eat only one meal a day in the restaurant, where they order the most expensive dishes on the menu because they are afraid of annoying the waiters. Under instructions from her husband, Peter, Annie desperately tries to wangle an advance from Peter's Belgian publisher so that she can pay the hotel bill and move on to Amsterdam.The unpaid bills, the expired visas, Peter’s absences and her mother’s sadness are the norm for Kully. She knows that her father cannot return to Germany because he would be jailed. She cannot write to her friends in Germany because receiving a letter could put them at risk from the Nazis. She hears her parents and their friends talk of death, and witnesses the attempted suicide of another writer. Kully relates these events from the matter-of-fact, accepting perspective of a nine-year-old.Keun’s book provides a fascinating glimpse of life as an exile from Hitler’s Germany. Highly recommended.