Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Emerging German Writers at Words without Borders

They asked me to guest-edit an issue of Words without Borders showcasing emerging German writers. I nearly burst, I was so proud and excited. For years I'd been fantasizing about putting together an equivalent to Granta's Best of Young British Novelists, only with Germans. The power! The influence! The delights of including certain favourites and excluding writers who've blanked me at parties!

And then: Jesus, it was hard. Try choosing only ten writers, of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. As in, only ten writers you want the whole world to read. Also, try choosing ten pieces of writing that are varied and reflect different aspects of a "national literature" (let's not go there) and are also serious and fun to read and outstandingly good and grab you by the throat and shake you and work on their own and in combination. Thankfully, they let me choose only German writing rather than German-language writing from Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Luxemburg, and wherever. So only about half the total volume to sieve through.

I define the nebulous "emerging" as not yet world famous and with a maximum of two book-length publications. Some of the writers haven't put any books out yet. For poets I was looking for people who haven't yet been translated. I define "German writers" as people who write in German in Germany, possibly coming from elsewhere, or come from Germany and write in German elsewhere. There's a fair amount of moving around the world among the authors in the issue – I didn't check anyone's passports.

One thing very quickly went out the window: an age limit. Because an age limit is a ridiculous restriction that punishes writers who've been doing other things with their lives before getting published and rewards writers who take the straight path. Another thing was that I sought help and advice on poetry, because I know very little indeed about poetry.

Anyway, look upon their works ye mighty, and despair. Maybe no one will remember them in ten years' time or maybe they'll be famous the world over. These are my emerging German writers:

Finn-Ole Heinrich
Olga Grjasnowa
Stephanie Bart
Marianna Salzmann
Bettina Suleiman
Simone Kornappel
Isabelle Lehn
Francis Nenik
Noemi Schneider
Deniz Utlu

Thanks to my fellow translators Amanda DeMarco, Jake Schneider and Julie Winter, and to the lovely editors at Words without Borders. The issue also features a special on writers from Burundi, which you should also read. Also I wrote an introduction. Enjoy. I am available for interviews.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

"Feminisms" at Fischer & Suhrkamp

It's amusing. I can see the point of being inclusive, and by no means do I want to say men cannot and should not be feminists. But when I look at how the shared discussion of "feminisms" is shaping up at Hundertvierzehn.de and Logbuch Suhrkamp, I can't help but crunching numbers. And so far there are more male voices in the conversation than female.

I can't say I'm surprised. If you scroll down past their fig leaf you'll notice that both publishers' blogs are stuffed full of men writing about men, or men writing about themselves, with occasional women writing about men and every now and then a woman (oddly, often American) writing about women. It's like they don't have any women in their catalogues – or are their female writers too busy?

I'm getting sick of feeling so cynical, which may explain why my blogging pace has slowed right down. Because I hate all this Eyoreish complaining I'm doing all the time. Right now I'm also translating the book I've wanted to work on for the past two years: Clemens Meyer's Im Stein, which will be published late next year by Fitcarraldo Editions. It's sucking me in and making everything else feel kind of insignificant. Yes, it's by a man.

Here's a piece by a man about publishing women, Alex Valente in The Norwich Radical on A Climate of Positive Thinking. I hope it helps me and others to think positive. Maybe all this talk of feminisms at Fischer and Suhrkamp will remind them to make their blogs a little more diverse as well.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize to Susan Bernofsky

Jenny Erpenbeck's The End of Days continues to reel in the accolades, this time winning Susan Bernofsky the coveted Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. The judges said:
Susan Bernofsky’s English translation, ‘The End of Days’, is a beautiful, poetic and persuasive work in its own right, intellectually engaging, and emotionally gripping. The lyrical richness and psychological depth of the original German are matched by a fresh, compelling English style in a publication that promises to bring both author and translator to the forefront of modern European literature known in Britain and America.
Congratulations! Susan gets £2000 and a big hug from a man in a gown and mortarboard. 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Harry Rowohlt, 1945-2015

Germany's famous translator Harry Rowohlt has died at the age of seventy. He was the son of publisher Ernst Rowohlt but was never involved in running the publishing house before he and his half-brother sold it in 1982, although he did train at Suhrkamp Verlag and took an internship at Grove Press. He began translating from English in 1971 and was particularly loved for his live events, at which he would interrupt his readings with anecdotes and whiskey (he was apparently made an "ambassador of Irish whiskey" in 1996 and translated a number of Irish writers, including Flann O'Brien and Ken Bruen). And he also recorded hugely popular audiobooks, wrote occasional newspaper columns and played a tramp in the long-running Lindenstraße soap opera.

Readers were very keen on his translation style, which he applied to both children's and adult books. He had a hand for comedy, translating Frank Muir, Andy Stanton, David Sedaris and Robert Crumb, but also writers who are tough in other ways: Kurt Vonnegut, a little James Joyce and probably most famously A.A. Milne. I never met him; as far as I understand, he preferred not to keep the company of other translators. 

Harry Rowohlt made translators visible in Germany like no other, and did a great deal to establish an image for literary translators as creative writers with personalities of their own rather than dictionary-wielding robots. He will be greatly missed by his many readers.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Call for Submissions – no man’s land # 10 (Final Issue)

Contemporary German-language fiction and poetry in English translation.
Deadline: August 6, 2015.

no man’s land, the online journal for contemporary German literature in translation at www.no-mans-land.org, is seeking submissions for its 10th and final issue.

It’s been an exciting and rewarding journey since 2006. We’ve published work by over 120 writers and 70 translators. We’ve held too many readings, contests, workshops and Translation Labs to count. We’ve witnessed an astonishing renaissance of translation culture in the English-speaking world, and a surge of interest in German literature. We’re proud to have been a part of that.

With mixed feelings, we’ve decided that Issue # 10 will be the last issue of our translation journal. Of course, all the issues will remain available under www.no-mans-land.org. Our monthly Translation Lab will continue as before, and we have plans to relaunch no man’s land in a new form as a forum for translation and German literature in Berlin and beyond. So stay tuned! But now we’re focusing on making Issue # 10 the best issue ever. And for that, we’re counting on you to send us your most compelling work to round out the spectrum of new German literature we’ve presented so far.

For prose, send up to 3 texts (stories or self-contained novel excerpts, max. 4,000 words each) by one or different contemporary* writers. For poetry, send work by up to 3 poets, each to a maximum of 5 poems. Electronic submissions only. No simultaneous submissions, please, and – with some exceptions** – no previously-published translations. The deadline is August 6, 2015, and we will inform contributors by early October 2015; the issue will go online by late November. We regret that we cannot offer honoraria.

Please include your contact information, biographical and publication information (for both translator and author) and a copy of the original. Also, please provide proof of permission from the original publisher and/or author – whoever holds the rights to the piece (this could be a scanned letter, or forward us an e-mail).

Please send submissions electronically to Isabel Cole at isabel@no-mans-land.org.

To save time and avoid misplacing your work, we ask that you observe the following guidelines:

Please name the file with your translation as follows: pr for prose, ly for poetry_your last name_the author’s last name_e. So Anthea Bell’s translation of prose by E. T. A. Hoffmann would be: pr_bell_hoffmann_e.doc.

Name the file with the original the same way, but ending with _dt (pr_bell_hoffmann_dt.doc). Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Rilke poems would be ly_mitchell_rilke_e.doc, and the original would be ly_mitchell_rilke_dt.doc. 

With scanned originals, please put all the pages in one file.

Apologies if this sounds complicated, but it really is a great help!

For more information, see our “Translators’ Tips” on the no man’s land website, and feel free to contact us at the above e-mail address.

We look forward to reading your work!



The Editors, no man’s land

www.no-mans-land.org



*Defined broadly as writers currently active, or active in the later 20th/early 21st century. When in doubt, query!



** We are willing to make exceptions for translations that have appeared previously in very limited circulation and that we feel deserve a new audience. Again, please feel free to query.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Tanja Dückers on the Gender Gap in German Letters

The writer Tanja Dückers has a piece on the FAZ's blog by women, entitled Progress Is A Slow Stepper. She gives us some anecdotes and figures on the disadvantages women writers face in Germany, most significantly lower pay.
Germany's best-known agent, Karin Graf, owner of the large literary and media agency Graf & Graf, says without hesitation that publishing houses offer her less money for manuscripts written by women than for men's manuscripts. It is also easier for men to get their books published in hardcover than for women.
Women writers in Germany earn an average 25% less than their male counterparts. Dückers was once paid €100 less than two men on the same panel. Although things are improving in terms of prizes, German and Austrian literary awards have tended to go overwhelmingly to men. Dückers was the first writer ever to ask for help finding daycare for her children at an American writers-in-residence programme. The programme has been running for sixty years. A German Studies professor wrote in a newspaper review of one of her books (excuse the very literal translation): "With this book, Tanja Dückers has performed a poor blowjob."

None of this is particularly surprising for anyone with an eye for the issue. What I find particularly depressing, however, is that this is happening in German writing, the language that gives us Anglophones the highest percentage of translated literature by women.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

On Literary Events

Literary readings are a big thing in Germany. Audiences are incredibly patient and will sit through two-hour events composed largely of monotonous recital with hardly any shuffling of bottoms on seats. Then they will go home without asking any questions, not even the question-that-is-a-statement kind. Compare and contrast with the UK events I've attended, where the reading aloud parts are kept to a minimum and it's all about asking the author's advice on getting published. So it's little wonder, perhaps, that Berlin's literary event culture is split cleanly into German and non-German. That means that when an Anglophone writer is translated into German, their events here will usually have a largely German audience, while English events with smaller names will be packed to the gills.

I blame the format, which is fairly standardized for some reason (inertia?). Writer and moderator and actor share a stage. Translator is not present, or if so then only in the audience. Writer reads one page from the original, actor reads interminably long section from the translation while writer stares into space, moderator fails to mention translator, brief conversation between writer and moderator, which is translated as it goes along, while the actor stares into space. Actor reads another incredibly long passage. Everyone goes home. If you understand the original language you don't get a great deal out of this format – which is why, I suspect, audiences at the Berlin International Literature Festival are not usually very international.

So we're trying something slightly different at the Salon Karl-Marx-Buchhandlung. Under the heading "Literatur im Original" we're going to do events with Anglophone writers but without the actors. Because what's the point in having writers come all the way here if all they do is stare into space half the time? While I'm pretty certain most Berliners now magically speak much better English than twenty years ago, of course we can't expect everyone to follow complex literary texts, so we're going to project the translations onto the wall to help them understand – and also to showcase the translator's work and encourage people to buy the translations, which is kind of the point of these events. So there's more time for me to talk to the writer on stage and also more time for the audience to ask her advice on getting published.

We start with the writer and sociologist of art Sarah Thornton, who'll be talking about her fascinating book 33 Artists in 3 Acts this coming Wednesday. And in case you can't read the German blurb about the event itself, here it is in English, because I really want you to come anyway and meet German-speaking art and book lovers:
Wednesday, 10 June at 7.30 pm.

Sarah Thornton
33 Artists in 3 Acts
Moderator: Katy Derbyshire
The event will take place mainly in English

What does it mean to be an artist in the 21st century? Are artists entrepreneurs or entertainers? How do they stay “authentic”? In her book 33 ARTISTS IN 3 ACTS, the art expert and sociologist SARAH THORNTON takes us to the superstars of the international art scene, presenting 33 artists including Ai Weiwei, Jeff Koons and Marina Abramovic. Focusing on three aspects – politics, kinship and craft – she looks not only at their studios, but also at their living rooms and their bank accounts. She’s there when ideas come about and great works take shape. With a scathing eye for detail, she analyzes their many different answers to the question: What is an artist?

Cooperation partner: S. Fischer Verlag
Tickets: 8,- € /  6,- €
Reservations via: 030 29 777 89-10.
See you there.