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Banned, forgotten, reissued: Michael Kosmeli's "Female Monkey"

A "precious lecture morsel" full of "luscious wit" is this novel about a "crooked pleasure girl", was the verdict of the reviewer of the "Belletristische Zeitung" published in Gotha on 2 August 1800 about a new work with the strange title "Die Zwei und vierzig jährige Äffin". However, the book written by the vagabond writer and Jew's harpist Michael Kosmeli (1773-1844) did not become a bestseller despite this praise, because it contains things that not only disturbed but outright outraged almost all readers in the classical "Goethe period".

This is the first novel in the history of German literature in which a woman of color is the main character and first-person narrator. As a hetaera in Germany, the heroine, who comes from Africa, drives rows and rows of old white men out of their minds and fortunes, only to end up founding a learned academy where, among other things, the wicked works of the notorious Marquis de Sade are studied. On top of that, this equally permissive and free-spirited tale of ape is also the first work of German fiction in which a minor character is openly bisexual and, moreover, same-sex love is welcomed in principle.

At the Gotha Research Centre at the University of Erfurt, Dirk Sangmeister has now produced a text-critical and annotated edition of this work, which was promptly banned at the time and has long since been forgotten, as part of his project on "Ways and Works of Michael Kosmeli" as part of the German Research Foundation (DFG) priority programme "Transottomanica". The book has now been published by the bibliophile publishing house "Das kulturelle Gedächtnis" (Berlin) in time for the Leipzig Spring Fair, which begins on April 27, and at the same time already in view of Kosmeli's 250th birthday on September 6.

Dirk Sangmeister (ed.)
Michael Kosmeli: Die zwei und vierzig jährige Äffin. Das vermaledeiteste Märchen unter der Sonne
(annotated and disfavored)
"Das kulturelle Gedächtnis" publishing house, Berlin 2023
ISBN: 978-3-946990-75-8
240 pages
26 EUR