Extreme and tendentious and loud

Posted on 7th January 2015 by simonbeattie


One of the great things about being a bookseller is the fact you’re always learning.  I’d not heard of Louise Aston (1814–1871) until a few weeks ago, a feminist writer who has been called the German George Sand, but she’s fascinating.  She wore trousers.  She smoked.  She advocated free love.  ‘Certainly, Louise Aston seems to have differed in her public image from many of the other women’s rights advocates of mid-nineteenth-century Germany …  Aus dem Leben einer Frau was published in 1847, the first of Louise Aston’s three novels.  The fact that she signed her name to the work is evidence of her determined entry into public view: unlike a number of her equally engaged contemporaries, she seems never to have considered a pseudonym.  Meine Emancipation, Verweisung, und Rechtfertigung, her 1846 description of the political and legal troubles she had encountered in Berlin, also appeared under her name …


‘The reading of both texts is not a lulling experience: they hammer away at social ills, grumble at authorities who are often clearly specified as male; they are extreme and tendentious and loud.  The autobiographical novel is also highly dramatic.  It traces the perils in the life of a young woman oppressed first by her father, then by a husband, and eventually freed from both when she leaves her marriage.  It echoes Aston’s own unhappy early years, her marriage to an English industrialist, and her divorce from him shortly before the birth of her daughter.  It directs its harangues against materialism, it is often overtly class-specific, it makes frequent references to many other writers of the day, and it echoes everybody from Samuel Richardson to the German romantics and the Young Germans’ (Ruth-Ellen Joeres, Respectability and Deviance: Nineteenth-century German Women Writers and the Ambiguity of Representation, pp. 113–114).

The novel appears never to have been translated into English, but was reprinted in German as recently as 2012.

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