Eva Figes

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Eva Figes
BornEva Unger Edit this on Wikidata
15 April 1932 Edit this on Wikidata
Berlin Edit this on Wikidata
Died28 August 2012 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 80)
Greater London Edit this on Wikidata
Alma materQueen Mary College
OccupationNovelist, social critic edit this on wikidata
AwardsGuardian Fiction Prize Edit this on Wikidata

Eva Figes (/ˈfz/; 15 April 1932 – 28 August 2012) was an acclaimed English author and feminist.[1] Figes wrote novels, literary criticism, studies of feminism, and vivid memoirs relating to her Berlin childhood and later experiences as a Jewish refugee from Hitler's Germany.


Born Eva Unger in Berlin in 1932 to an affluent, secular Jewish family, she arrived in Britain as a refugee in 1939 with her mother Irma Unger, and her younger brother, Ernst.[2][3] During Kristallnacht in November 1938, her father Emil was arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp, he was later released after his wife offered the Nazis a large bribe and managed to escape to England to join his family in London.[4][5] All of Figes's grandparents on both sides of the family died in concentration camps.[6]

After graduating B.A. with honours from Queen Mary College in London in 1953, she worked in publishing until 1967, when she became a full-time writer.[7]

She was married in 1954 to John George Figes,[8] they had two children: the writer Catherine J. ("Kate") Figes,[9] and the academic Orlando Figes.[10]

The marriage was dissolved by divorce in 1962,[3] she met the German Nobel Prize-winning author Günter Grass in London and the two had a short romantic affair that turned into a lifelong friendship.[11] In 2006, it was revealed that Grass had been a member of the Waffen-SS during the Nazi regime.[12]

In the 1960s she was associated with an informal group of experimental British writers influenced by Rayner Heppenstall that included Stefan Themerson, Ann Quin, Alan Burns, and its informal leader, B. S. Johnson.


Figes's best known work is Patriarchal Attitudes, a feminist polemic written in 1970, published one month before Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch; the book argued that nurture rather than nature has shaped all secondary sex characteristics and considered why prominent female figures of the nineteenth century were ambivalent or hostile towards the feminist movement.[13]

Figes' 1983 novel, Light, is an impressionistic portrait of a single day in the life of Claude Monet from sunrise to sunset.

Figes won the Guardian Fiction Prize for Winter Journey in 1967.

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • Equinox (1966)
  • Winter Journey (1967)
  • Konek Landing (1969)
  • B (1972)
  • Days (1974)
  • Nelly's Version (1977)
  • Waking (1981)
  • Light (1983)
  • The Seven Ages: A Novel (1986)
  • Ghosts (1988)
  • The Tree of Knowledge (1990)
  • The Tenancy (1993)
  • The Knot (1996)

Literary and social criticism[edit]

  • Patriarchal Attitudes: Women in Society (1970)
  • Tragedy and Social Evolution (1976)
  • Sex and Subterfuge: Women Writers to 1850 (1982)
  • Women's Letters in Wartime, 1450-1945 (1993)


  • Little Eden: A Child at War (1978)
  • Tales of Innocence and Experience: An Exploration (2004)
  • Journey to Nowhere (2008)


  1. ^ Eva Tucker (7 September 2012). "Eva Figes obituary | Books". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
  2. ^ Flood, Alison (12 October 2009). "British Library acquires Eva Figes archive". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
  3. ^ a b Eva Tucker (7 September 2012). "Eva Figes obituary | Books". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
  4. ^ Tucker, Eva (2012). "Eva Figes obituary". The Guardian.
  5. ^ Figes, Kate (2018). "'My family after the holocaust'". The Guardian.
  6. ^ Figes, Kate (2018). "'My family after the Holocaust'". The Guardian.
  7. ^ "Eva Figes". The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  8. ^ Marriage registered in Westminster Registration District in the third quarter of 1954.
  9. ^ "Eva Figes". Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
  10. ^ Births registered in Westminster Registration District in the last quarter of 1957 and in the Islington Registration District in the last quarter of 1959.
  11. ^ Tucker, Eva (2012). "Eva Figes obituary". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "'Günter Grass was in the Waffen SS'". Sign and Sight. 2006.
  13. ^ "'PATRIARCHAL ATTITUDES: WOMEN IN SOCIETY'". Kirkus Reviews. 1970.