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Meike Ziervogel




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Irish Times Books Of The Year 2013

Observer Books Of The Year 2013

Guardian Readers' Books Of The Year 2013

Short Listed For Guardian's Not The Booker Prize 2013

Unloved sons turn their aggression on the outside world. Unloved daughters destroy the people they love, and then themselves.

In this daring portrayal of Magda Goebbels – wife of Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels – Meike Ziervogel unveils an historical tale of abusive mother and daughter relationships that reaches a terrifying conclusion in the last days of Nazi Germany.

Magda is born at the beginning of the 20th century, the illegitimate child of a maidservant who feels burdened with a daughter she does not want. The girl grows up to become an ambitious woman, desperate for love and recognition. When Magda meets Joseph Goebbels, he appears to answer all her needs, and together they have six children. Towards the end of the Second World War, Magda has become physically and emotionally sick. As she takes her children into the Führer’s bunker, her eldest daughter Helga experiences an overwhelming sense of foreboding.

Praise for this Book

‘Straddling historical fact and fiction, this gem of a novel probes the dark material of malignant relations between mothers and daughters across generations. It’s a gripping read, a subtle portrait of a woman history made monstrous, here reinvented with intelligence and story-telling flair.’ —Lisa Appignanesi, author of Mad, Bad and Sad

‘For a novelist to dare approach the human side of a historical monster is always brave, and in this disturbing short novel Meike Ziervogel takes a huge gamble. Her protagonist — one hesitates to say 'heroine' — is Magda, wife of Josef Goebbels, troubled adventuress, fanatical acolyte of Hitler, killer of her own children. Does the gamble succeed? For this reader it emphatically does. This is a convincing and sometimes agonisingly raw depiction both of the Nazi ruling circle and, on an intimate personal level, of the way in which abuse breeds abuse through generation after generation.’ —Frederick Taylor, author of Exorcising Hitler

Reviews of this Book

‘A daring and intelligent debut.’ —Pam Norfolk

‘History has painted Magda Goebbels as the Medea of the Third Reich, but that hasn't dissuaded Meike Ziervogel from constructing a psychological profile that attempts to explain how a woman can murder her own children.’ —Alfred Hickling

‘A disturbing book but one I'd recommend to anyone with interests from psychological profiling to Hitler's Germany.’ —Our Book Reviews

‘9 out of 10 – I found this a truly unique, fascinating read and one which has prompted me to seek out more literary studies and research on Magda Goebbels.’ —The Friendly Shelf

‘Meet a woman who, despite praying to remain virginal, had seven children. Meet a woman whose mother thought her hoity-toity, and spoilt, and who thought she should go to work in a factory at school age to know her place better. Meet a woman of whom her oldest daughter would write I don't care what Mother says. Mother isn't always right. No, she definitely isn't. All three women are, of course, one and the same, and they're Magda Goebbels, the woman who epitomised more than anyone the Nazi wife.’ —The Bookbag

‘Ziervogel is the brave woman who set up Peirene Press five years ago ... Her own debut novel displays similar nerve ... This is an ambitious and queasily unsettling novel.’ —David Mills

‘This frank, disturbing novel is an intriguing mix of fact and fiction and pulls no punches. The author sets out to use the story to examine the psychological theory that unloved daughters destroy the people they love and then themselves ... Ziervogel explores this disturbing theory with haunting originality and real flair.’ —Christena Appleyard

‘Told in spare, simple prose, Ziervogel's depiction of a likely afterlife for Magda and her children, in which Helga must prostitute herself so that her family can eat, is particularly powerful.’ —Lesley McDowell

‘The book left me with many questions about Magda’s decisions, but filling in the gaps gave the story an enduring quality and left me wanting to know even more about the women in Hitler’s bunker. This is a brief, but powerful book. I highly recommend it.’ —Farm Lane Books Blog

Magda is a short, dark book, filled with unhappy people who go on to create other unhappy people. But it is also subtle and quiet and creeping. It’s the sort of book that I think would be described as ‘ambitious’, given how many different styles and how much is touched upon in its 115 pages, but ‘ambitious’ feels like a word you apply to something that doesn’t quite meet its goals. I think this does.’ —Debbie Kinsey

‘Where Ziervogel really shines is in her expert handling of the narrative’s chronology; weaving back and forth over different points in the three women’s lives, she enables the reader to piece together an innate understanding of the motives behind Magda Goebbels, the woman who was capable of murdering her six children when she knew Germany has been defeated. While this makes for uneasy, and sometimes agonising reading, the end result is worth it; one comes away unable to forget Ziervogel’s haunting insight into one of the Nazi’s most notorious female members.’ —Sadie Levy Gale

‘But are Magda's own crimes committed out of love and fear, or selfish madness? Ziervogel has given us a novel which is frustratingly fragmentary, but also challenging, clever, and fascinating as an insight into how generations of Germans are summoning the courage to address the horror of the last century.’ —Amanda Craig

‘After initially reading Magda I was hugely impressed by it and thought it a very brave and often uncomfortable tale but one which needs to be so. Since then the book has lingered with me and my admiration of what Meike has done has grown and grown. It has made me ask myself a lot of questions about perceptions and how we look at and deal with history. It has also seen me go off and read other books, such as Laurent Binet’s HHhH (review coming soon), and documentaries and films, such as Downfall, which look at these horrendous events yet with more impartiality. A book which does that is one we should all be reading, so find a copy. It has been one of my reading experiences of the year.’ —Simon Savidge

‘Observer Books of the Year. You might think that you've heard a lot in recent years about the dreadful final days in Hitler's bunker and Magda Goebbels's murder of her own children. I know I did when I started Meike Ziervogel's novel Magda (Salt) – but I soon realised that it still had the power to shock and surprise. This is an intelligent, acute and horrifically intense book. It didn't so much take my breath away as make me gasp for air.’ —Sam Jordison

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