When Branded: A Diary was published in Berlin in 1920, Emmy Hennings was called the most important woman writer of her day. Her autobiographical novel offers a sharp critique of patriarchy and the social injustices of the last decade of the German Empire, infused with a mysticism that celebrates sexual love as a spiritual gift and assigns saintly status to beggars and sex workers. Over a century after the novel’s publication, this translation finally introduces an important modernist voice to English-language readers.
“The figure of the prostitute is a common feature of Weimar literature and is a frequent object of contemporary historical study. Yet she remains elusive, represented by others, and representing concerns about morality, rather than able to represent herself. Emmy Hennings’s autobiographical novel, Branded: A Diary, gave Hennings a platform to speak about her experiences as an actress, as someone who engaged in sex work, as a muse, and as an independent woman who wanted to make her way in a patriarchal world. This translation puts Hennings’s work and life in context and allows Hennings to speak to a new audience. It gives scholars of gender, literature, and cultural history access to an important resource and challenges assumptions of about the lives of working women in Germany.” — Dr. Corinne Painter, University of Leeds
“With this version of Emmy Hennings’s Das Brandmal: Ein Tagebuch (Branded: A Diary), full of astounding imagery and rich supporting documentation, Katharina Rout has given a tremendous gift to all of us, and especially to English-language scholars across a broad spectrum of disciplines. Neither simply the wife of Hugo Ball nor a performer at the Cabaret Voltaire, Hennings was a profoundly important founding figure in the Dada avant-garde art movement in the early twentieth century. Writing at a time of extreme conflict, gender trouble, social disruption, and political chaos, Hennings’s contributions to avant-garde critically were often marginalized or misunderstood, and in some cases simply ignored. Her thoughts on sexuality, spirituality, incarceration, trauma, and memory still resonate so profoundly today – a remarkable feat for an artist whose creative energies have been never fully acknowledged. Rout’s translation gives us greater and much-needed insights into Henning’s underappreciated powers by capturing the complex, cathartic, and critical work of this amazing artist.” — Thomas O. Haakenson, California College of the Arts, author of Grotesque Visions: The Science of Berlin Dada
“Avantgarde poet and performer, working-class single mother, travelling artist and survival sex-worker, bohemian, exile, devout Catholic – Emmy Hennings (1885-1948) was one of the most remarkable creative individuals of her time. Following the publication of Das Brandmal (Branded) in 1920, she was considered one of the most significant contemporary women writers in the German language, until a reactionary and soon fascist industry ensured her exclusion from the literary canon. Now, a century after its original publication, Hennings’s important work is for the first time available in English, thanks to Katharina Rout and her superb translation. Hennings’s main work is framed by Rout’s informative and perceptive introduction and selected extracts in translation that offer insights into relevant social, literary, and religious contexts of this astonishing narrative. Highlighting the precariousness of the life of an actor/artist and the exploitation of marginalized women by a complacent and complicit conservative bourgeoisie, this nuanced translation of Hennings’ Das Brandmal is a most welcome addition to a growing body of works by innovative and highly significant German-language writers, who experienced ostracism and hardship during the Nazi era and near oblivion after World War II. Hennings’s unique view and critical engagement stands out and deserves many readers.” — Christiane Schönfeld, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick
“Katharina Rout’s hauntingly beautiful translation of Emmy Hennings’s 1920 autobiographical novel Branded, framed by Rout’s own comprehensive introduction at the beginning and excellent contextual materials at the end, aptly conveys the shame, humiliation, and fear experienced by a starving actress who engages in sex work in order to survive, without denying her the possibility of spiritual redemption. The protagonist observes the social conditions and sexual relations of post-World-War-I Germany with naked honesty and searing wit, and Rout captures both Hennings’s unique poetic style and the protagonist’s struggle to maintain human dignity with striking precision and scholarly integrity. This is a text that feels all too familiar in our own precarious times.” — Jill Suzanne Smith, Associate Professor of German, Bowdoin College, author of Berlin Coquette: Prostitution and the New German Woman, 1890–1933
“I can’t begin to say how much it means that Das Brandmal will finally appear in English. What’s more, it will appear in a superb edition and in a masterful translation. I am very impressed by the way Katharina Rout captures this very special writing style, a combination of linguistic poverty and existential abandonment, which is tremendously difficult to translate. The accompanying materials, too, make an important contribution to the volume. In my undergraduate and graduate classes taught in English, Emmy Hennings held, until now, only a virtual place but an important one. I can finally put Das Brandmal, one of the most radical self-accounts of all time, on my syllabi.” — Nicola Behrmann, Rutgers University