If you look at it from the end, Rahel Levin Varnhagen has led an eventful and fulfilling, yes: a brilliant life. On the one hand, her chances of getting started were not bad, as she came from a wealthy family: Her father was a banker and as such a well-tolerated man with the Prussian King Friedrich II. On the other hand, Rahel Varnhagen, née Levin, was afflicted with two serious flaws from the social point of view at the time – as a woman and as a Jew.
Christine Nagel presents this in the opening episodes of her ten-part radio play series conceived as a podcast by the RBB Rahel, so that you will know me clearly out. At the beginning you get to know your parents’ house in Berlin as a social meeting place near the Gendarmenmarkt. Both parents and children are educated and liberal. But their limits are clearly shown to them: As Jews, they are not full members of urban society. The second episode is about Rahel Levin’s thirst for education, which she has to satisfy through private engagement. As a woman, she is not allowed to study.
The demands of the young Rahel on life are immense and outside of the family and the circle of friends is confusedly noticed. It was by no means a matter of course that the Berliner should become a formative female figure of her epoch – if only because this role was fundamentally not intended in Prussia in the early 19th century.
The radio play is not only a biography, but also a description of the milieu and epoch
Rahel, so that you will know me tells this extraordinary life. Christine Nagel’s radio play – the author herself also directed it – is based on the many letters that Varnhagen wrote. Nagel stages the correspondence partly as dialogues, which makes the scenes more immediate. The main role is cast three times, with Dagmar Manzel, her daughter Klara Manzel and with Inka Löwendorf. Max von Pufendorf plays Rachel’s future husband Karl August Varnhagen von Ense, Winnie Böwe her best friend and vital corrective Pauline Wiesel. Devid Striesow can be heard as Friedrich von Gentz, Felix Goeser as Wilhelm von Humboldt, and finally Linda Blümchen as the narrator.
A large ensemble, because the podcast is not just a biography – it is also a description of the milieu and epoch. Rahel Varnhagen has seen the French Revolution from afar, up close, in the midst of many clever men with whom she was sometimes on friendly terms, sometimes on a distant relationship – such as Friedrich Schleiermacher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schlegel, the Mendelssohns, Clemens Brentano the Napoleonic wars and the restoration of the conservative order as well as a swelling of anti-Semitism. Christine Nagel has turned it into a lively literary narrative, based on reality.
Rahel, so that you know me, ten episodes, ARD audio library.