She wonders how much the pain could increase

Magda by Meike Ziervogel

by Meike Ziervogel

This novella follows the final days of Magda Goebbels. Knowing the bare bones of her story, I knew where this book would go, and expected something powerful. It’s a good book, but I didn’t experience the big reaction I thought I would.

Magda Goebbels was the wife of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, and herself a prominent Party member. The couple had six children and were both very close to Hitler. In April 1945 they moved, with their children, to Hitler’s bunker in Berlin.

Ziervogel has fictionalized the facts a little, and fleshed out the tale of Magda’s last days by adding Magda’s childhood and first marriage. Which is a lot to fit into a small space, but does give some context and humanity to this woman who is widely considered a little (or a lot) less than human.

“Magda pushes her left sleeve up, pinches herself on her lower arm, squeezing the skin between thumb and index finger. A sharp pain shoots up to her elbow and down to her wrist. She changes the position of the fingertips slightly, now digging the fingernails in as deep as possible, pulling and twisting the skin. She feels a twinge in her stomach, that’s all. For a moment she wonders how much the pain could increase; she wants to see what happens when her whole body is filled with pain, what happens when she then keeps the pain inside herself. It might turn into something less awful, even something fascinating.”

The voice switches between first and third person, with chapters narrated by Magda, her mother and her eldest daughter, so there are four different narrative voices, three generations of women. Which is done well enough, but for me it’s too much variety for such a short book. In a longer book this could have worked better, but in a novella I felt Ziervogel should have kept things simpler.

I don’t mean to be harsh. I did like this book, but I didn’t feel I really got to know Magda, and I didn’t feel anything in particular at what should have been a truly shocking ending, even if I did know it was coming.

Published 2013 by Salt Publishing.

Source: Bought direct from the publisher.