It’s summer time and for me this also means I have more time to read. Not because I have necessarily more time but I really enjoy sitting in the sun reading a book. So I just take some time out for reading a lot these days. A while ago I got a new book from the great guys at Kiwi Verlag and I finally managed to read it in the last two weeks. The German publishing house Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Kiwi) is widely known for great books and it’s definitely one of my favorites when it comes to novels and biographies. Especially the latter!
By now you probably realized I am a big fan of biographies 😉 especially if they tell me something about great women in history. It’s one of my personal obsessions I guess.
So I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the recently published ‘Notre Dame de Dada’. It’s about the life of Luise Straus-Ernst, known to the art world as the first wife of famous artist Max Ernst who’s been a womanizer and a pretty bad person when it came to women. Don’t get me wrong he was one of the most important artists of modern times and his paintings still amaze me but everything I read about him as a person disgusts me a bit. Thank God this book is not about him but his amazing first wife.
Luise Straus-Ernst, born in 1893 as the daughter of a Jewish industrialist family in Cologne, was much more than an artist’s wife: one of the first doctorate female art historians in Germany, author of short stories, reports, novels and a radio author of the first hour. She was a close friend of the artists Paul Klee, André Breton, Paul Eluard and Tristan Tzara. She fled from Cologne in the 1930ies, because she was Jewish and immigrated to Paris. She did not believe in the victory of the Hitler regime and hid in a hotel in Provence later on, where she wrote her autobiographical novel “Nomadengut”. Now on my reading list! Hers and Max Ernst’s son Jimmy who already lived in New York by the time tried to get his parents out of Europe with the help of Alfred Barr, legendary first director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. But the last-minute incoming exit visa for the “couple Ernst” has been declared invalid under mysterious circumstances. Some say Max Ernst refused to travel with his ex-wife. Accompanied by the famous art collector Peggy Guggenheim, whom he later married, only the artist travelled to America. Luise Straus-Ernst remained in France and died at age 51 (1944) in Auschwitz.
This was just a brief summary of the story, though. Luise Straus-Ernst had many ups and downs in her life and her story can keep it up with most novels when it comes to tension. The author Eva Weissweiler, who specializes in female biographies, has followed Luise Straus-Ernst’s footsteps and has rediscovered life and work of this fascinating woman with many untold details. The book is not just an interesting read because it’s about an art historian but because it’s about the darkest corner in our German history. I learned a lot about the times in Cologne and how they changed dramatically in the 1920ies and 1930ies. I was very touched by the circumstances and I don’t really have the words yet to tell you how I felt while I was reading. But I can really recommend this book!
#book | Notre Dame de Dada
#author | Eva Weissweiler
#language | German
#publisher | Kiepenheuer & Witsch
#ISBN | 978-3-462-04894-0
#pages | 456
#published | 2016
you can get your copy here.