Cover image for The life and adventures of Trobadora Beatrice as chronicled by her minstrel Laura : a novel in thirteen books and seven intermezzos
The life and adventures of Trobadora Beatrice as chronicled by her minstrel Laura : a novel in thirteen books and seven intermezzos
Morgner, Irmtraud.
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Uniform Title:
Leben und Abenteuer der Trobadora Beatriz nach Zeugnissen ihrer Spielfrau Laura. English
Publication Information:
Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xvii, 492 pages ; 23 cm.

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Set in the German Democratic Republic of the early 1970s, "The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice"--a landmark novel now translated into English for the first time--is a highly entertaining adventure story as well as a feminist critique of GDR socialism, science, history, and aesthetic theory.

In May 1968, after an eight-hundred-year sleep, Beatrice awakens in her Provence chateau. Looking for work, she makes her way to Paris in the aftermath of the student uprisings, then to the GDR (recommended to her as the "promised land for women"), where she meets Laura Salman, socialist trolley driver, writer, and single mother, who becomes her minstrel and alter ego. Their exploits--Beatrice on a quest to find the unicorn, Laura on maternity leave in Berlin--often require black-magic interventions by the Beautiful Melusine, who is half dragon and half woman.

Creating a montage of genres and text types, including documentary material, poems, fairy tales, interviews, letters, newspaper reports, theoretical texts, excerpts from earlier books of her own, pieces by other writers, and parodies of typical GDR genres, Irmtraud Morgner attempts to write women into history and retell our great myths from a feminist perspective.

Author Notes

Irmtraud Morgner (1933-90) was one of the most innovative and witty feminist writers to emerge from the GDR
Jeanette Clausen is an associate professor of German at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Morgner (1933-90) is considered to be one of the most important and influential authors of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), yet few of her works have appeared in English. This volume, first published in German in 1974, is her magnum opus; it was an immediate success in both West and East Germany. It presents a magnificent blend of fantasy, realism, history, myths, and fairy tales woven around the woman troubadour Beatrice de Dia. This 12th-century woman decides to sleep for some 800 years and awake when times have improved for women. Aided by mythological and realistic women, Beatrice eventually arrives in the GDR, "the promised land for women" where gender equality is anchored constitutionally. The contrasts between Beatrice's expectations and reality allow for an ironic, often playful critique of gender roles, particularly with regard to women's sexuality, the lack of female historical tradition, GDR reality, and international Cold War politics. In a brief introduction, Clausen and Silke von der Emde explain the novel's complex structure and themes and situate it within Morgner's oeuvre. Clausen is to be applauded for taking on the challenge of translating this multifarious work. Her readable translation and extensive glossary provide English readers with a unique example of GDR literature. Recommended for general and academic readers. All levels. M. Shafi; University of Delaware



Chapter One Which recounts what Laura initially learns from Beatrice de Dia about her strange and wondrous back- and foreground     Beatrice de Dia, a beautiful and noble lady, was the wife of Sir Guilhem de Poitiers. She fell in love with Sir Raimbaut d'Aurenga and composed many fine and beautiful songs for him, a few of which can be found in anthologies of old Provençal troubadour poetry. Next to the distinctive verses of Raimbaut d'Aurenga (French: d'Orange). He loved the game of playing with difficult rhymes and the ambiguity of words. The metric structure of his works reflects great refinement. Convinced of their exclusivity, the chronically indebted count constantly tried to find complicated words ending in-enga to rhyme with Aurenga, and showed disdain for all unaristocratic verse-artists. For this reason Beatrice felt compelled to mention her noble status in her `Canso of Love Betrayed,' as well as her intellect, beauty, loyalty, and passion. Superfluously. In practice, the gentleman didn't think a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush, as would seem logical. To him, a bird in the hand was worth two in the hand. This experience prompted the contessa to depart the medieval world of men. By unnatural means. Persephone demanded 2,920 hours of work for each year of sleep. The trobadora named the largest number she knew. Her promise was enough for 810 years of sleep. When she had confirmed her promise to Persephone on her word of honor and pricked herself in the finger with a spindle, the magic began to work. Only for her; husband and servants died in the usual way, per the agreement. A hedge of roses grew up around the château. While it was still visible, robber barons tried repeatedly to break through the hedge of thorns. Later people took it for an impassable hill and went around it. In the spring of 1968, an engineer who had been hired to build a highway in the area decided to blast the obstacle out of the way. As he and the explosives specialist approached the red-blossomed mountain of roses to discuss where to place the charge, cursing the fragrance for lowering the construction workers' productivity, the hedge suddenly gave way and opened like a gate. The engineer was dumbstruck. Until he saw the château; then he cursed even louder. For he was anticipating endless negotiations with the Office for Protection of Historic Monuments. The curses awakened Beatrice. After rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she fell instantly in love with the engineer as a consequence of extreme abstinence. Chapter Two Wherein the reader finds the words exchanged by the engineer (engr.) and the explosives specialist (ex.sp.) on Monday, 6 May 1968, After Beatrice has fallen in love EX.SP.: A miracle. ENGR.: There are no miracles. EX.SP.: Naturally. ENGR.: Huh? EX.SP.: I said, of course. We've often had street battles. But you can see for yourself ... ENGR.: A dusty ruin, a dusty female. I'm no American tourist who compensates for his hometown's short history by prostrating himself before every antiquity. I'm a Frenchman. And I'm paying for my son's education. If he wants to build barricades, he'll have to look for another source of income. EX.SP.: That gives me an idea. We'll sell the miracle. ENGR.: And? EX.SP.: We'll be rich. ENG.: Poor. EX.SP.: Even poorer? ENGR.: If the story gets out, we'll lose the job, they'll lock us up ... Hey, has the ruin gotten you so confused that you're forgetting who the construction site belongs to, along with everything on it? EX.SP.: The dame is no ruin. And the building is in great shape. Normally our châteaux last through the ages only when they're used as prisons. At our current rate of fifty percent of cases solved, only dilettante jobs are resolved. An educated man like you ... ENGR.: I'd guess, eleventh century. Anyway, miracles just don't sell. EX.SP.: Why not? Excerpted from The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice as Chronicled by Her Minstrel Laura by IRMTRAUD MORGNER. Copyright © 1992 by Luchterhand Literaturverlag GmbH. Translation copyright © 2000 University of Nebraska Press. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. vii
Translator's Notep. xvii
The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice as Chronicled by Her Minstrel Laurap. 1
Structural Plan of the Novelp. 469
Glossaryp. 485