Tag Archives: Society under dictatorships

Manuscript is in production!

3 Jun

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Coffee drinking women, painting, 1907

While I am exhausted from despair and anxiety because of “current events,” as it used to be called in my high school days, I just cannot bring myself to comment on this blog about these dismaying incidents about which I have ranted on Facebook. But I did feel I needed to post something new here, so this is my report: I submitted the manuscript of “Three German Women” to the publishers last week! Despite the pandemic lockdown, the first proofs should be here in a few weeks. In the meantime, I have agonized over the choice of a cover image for the book. I scoured all the free sites, such as Wikimedia, I considered several possibilities, every one of which ended up requiring expensive permission fees, or was somehow unsuitable. My search terms had something to do with three German women, active 1910-1950, preferably a cafe scene, something not Weimar-era Flapper-like, or frilly, but not too serious either. Ideally I wanted a woman artist, but nothing I found seemed to resonate appropriately. I had several people recommend graphic designers who would, I am sure, have created something original and pertinent, but given the small size of this book (it’s A5 format), I really didn’t want to waste their obvious talents on such a meager space. Here are three of the possible images I considered:

I really wanted to use the Beckmann, because it was the right period, a little edgy- Germanic, but it would have required searching for copyright permission (the work appears a gillion times on Pinterest, but nowhere could I find who owned it), and it probably would have cost a fortune to reproduce. The photograph of the little girls would have been available, but my Facebook critics determined that it might lead prospective readers to assume the themes of the book were of a younger milieu than the text was focussing on. And the final image by Lotte Laserstein (a new and welcome discovery for me) was deemed too busy for a small cover (and probably would have required elaborate permissions as well).

Finally, after days of online perusal, I found a stock photo site that included images free of royalty rights or permissions. And there was the bright yellow painting by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner of three women drinking coffee! I could have the image for $70. While it is, at 1907, a bit early for the actual events of the book (one of my women is not born until 1919), the image was so striking and so German that I felt it captured the right mood. So I have submitted it to the publishers, who will now determine whether it’s usable or not. Fingers crossed! I think it will make a very striking impression.

If nothing else, all of these pictorial excursions and decisions have diverted my attention from the chaos and violence being stoked into frenzy by the highest levels of the American government, and in the midst of a global pandemic that already warrants extreme levels of vigilance and anxiety for everyone. We can do very little but try to continue to live civilized, humane lives. As I say in my book–one of the themes of which is that most Germans under Nazi rule were neither Nazis nor radicals–individual human beings will have to negotiate their own moral and ethical behavior in light of these atrocities: “In our present political climate, dictatorial impulses around the globe are, bafflingly, upending many of the gains made since that last world war, erasing for some the lessons we should have learned from the tumultuous history these women had to face. While we do not have to stand by in complete helplessness as these events out of our control occur, it is perhaps beneficial to be reminded that ordinary people should not necessarily be painted as traitors or heroes to a cause, as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ if they are simply living their lives with as much grace and perseverance as they can.”