Tuesday, 16 September 2014

International Translators Day Extravaganzas

There are many, many things going on to mark International Translation Day this year, or Hieronymustag as the less heathen Germans like to call it.

Start the fun in Berlin this Friday, 19 September with an all-day symposium (you can still register until tomorrow). "The translation of literary works is the most complex form of translation. In three panel discussions," (one of them featuring yours truly) "we want to examine various aspects of the profession: How can I become a literary translator? Do I need formal training, how about further education? Is it worth translating literature? What's the situation with recognition for literary translators? What could and ought to change? Are there objective and content-related boundaries to literary translation? How do literary translators deal with apparently untranslatable cultural divergences?"

Then take the plane to London for another all-day fun-fest on Friday, 26 September, this time at the British Library - don't worry, this one also features your favourite blogger on adoring Teutonic literature. "Now in its fifth year, the International Translation Day symposium is an annual event for the translation community. It is an opportunity for translators, students, publishers, booksellers, librarians, bloggers and reviewers to gather and debate significant issues and developments within the sector, to discuss challenges and to celebrate success."

The actual St. Jerome's Day is Tuesday, 30 September. And if you're in one of 17 cities around the world and would like to see a real-live translator actually translating out of German, you're in luck. Because on that day there's a whole programme of translators actually leaving the house and interacting with other human beings:

Ard Posthuma translating Ulrike Draesner and Jean Pierre Rawie

Bratislava, 6 p.m., Goethe-Institut library, Panenská 33
Zuzana Demjánová translating Katja Petrowskaja into Slovakian

Buenos Aires
Nicolás Gelormini translating Katja Petrowskaja into Spanish

Dilman Muradoğlu translating into Turkish

Cairo, 4 p.m., Goethe-Institut library
Dr. Ola Adel Abdel Gawad translating Jonas Lüscher into Arabic

Kiev (28 September!! 2:30 p.m., Goethe-Institut Ukraine, library, Wul. Woloska 12/4, 04655 Kiev
Nelia Vakhovska translating Robert Walser into Ukrainian

Jamie Bulloch translating Nora Bossong into English

Mexico City
Claudia Cabrera translating Arnold Zweig into Spanish

Iryna Herasimovich translating into Belorussian

New Delhi
Namita Khare translating Jenny Erpenbeck into Hindi

Beijing (29 September!!)
Huang Liaoyu translating Martin Walser into Chinese

Rio de Janeiro
Marcelo Backes translating Saša Stanišić into Portuguese

Sao Paulo
Petê Rissatti translating Thomas Brussig into Portuguese

Aimée Delblanc translating Katja Petrowskaja into Swedish

Tel Aviv
Daphna Amit translating Jennifer Teege into Hebrew

Anna Kordsaia-Samadaschwili translating into Georgian

Wellington, 4. p.m., National Library of New Zealand
Maike Wetzel translated into English by John Jamieson and then by Ian Cormack into Te Reo Maori

You may not make it to all the events. But make sure you wear a donkey's ear in your buttonhole to remember St. Jerome, who chopped off his donkey's ear to make a bookmark-slash-ink blotter for his bible translation. Hence the German word Eselsohr for when you turn down the corner of a page to keep your place in a book. Jerome knew God would forgive him, and help the donkey to hear with her other ear, because he was doing a very important job that made him immune to purgatorial punishment for cruelty to animals. In days gone by, translators around the world pinned real donkey's ears to their clothing on 30 September but now most of us prefer to use a vegan version.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Ten Books I Would Like to Translate

I got tagged, and seeing as I've been obsessively reading and then totally judging everyone by their lists of ten books that changed their lives or whatever it is – jeez, did you stop reading at fifteen; if I hate that book must I now hate you; would you please stop posturing and admit to reading trash now and then; OMG, Jeffrey Archer changed your life, really? – I thought I just wouldn't expose myself to the imagined ridicule of it all. But then I felt bad, so here is my personal cop-out: ten books I would like to translate. Some of them are books that lots of other people would like to translate as well, but I figured this is like fantasy football league, right, so you can just go for ridiculously unlikely things. I know that me translating many of these books, in real life, would piss off other translators, but this isn't real life. Most of the links are to my own reviews.

1. Clemens Meyer: Im Stein
It's just not going away. There's a reason it's at the top of the list.

2. Dorothee Elmiger: Schlafgänger
Actually, if all goes well I will be translating this one.

3. Annett Gröschner: Walpurgistag
Hundreds of voices on one day in Berlin.

4. David Wagner: Leben
Neither fish nor flesh, gorgeously written.

5. Lutz Seiler: Kruso
Except it would be really, really hard.

6. Teresa Präauer: Für den Herrscher aus Übersee
This one has a lot of admirers though, like the Seiler book.

7. Daniela Dröscher: Pola
I'd dress up in evening gowns every day.

8. Anna Seghers: Der Ausflug der toten Mädchen
Surprise! A dead white woman.

9. Selim Özdogan: Die Tochter des Schmieds
An old favourite.

10. Sven Regener: Magical Mystery
Because I translated a sample earlier this year and it was great fun and a real challenge to get the tone right. I saved it up to translate on my birthday. I don't think that's sad, or no sadder than a lot of other things.

If you'd like to join in the melancholy fun, you too could make a list of ten books you'd like to translate. You could put it online and post a link in the comments section. It might go viral and everyone who speaks two or more languages would be doing it.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Lutz Seiler: Kruso

The critics and I and most of my friends who care about these things agree that Kruso is the novel most likely to win this year's German Book Prize. Apparently, unlike Peter Stamm – who I learned recently has actually won something now – Lutz Seiler is a big winner of prizes. I'd be happy if he scooped this one too.

His young hero Edgar Bendler is a student of German literature in East Germany. His girlfriend has died in an accident and he runs away to the Baltic island of Hiddensee, hoping to find a job and a place to live to escape his obsessions. He does, as a dishwasher at the Klausner hotel (meaning: hermit). The work is backbreaking but the crew form a close team, a family. Their unofficial leader is the Kruso of the title, a young Russian by the name of Alexander Krusowitsch. Ed and Kruso become close, two loners who share a love of poetry. The new arrival gradually finds out his charismatic friend is running a strange system to provide shelter for the many people who head to the island in the hope of escaping via the sea to the West. Kruso’s sister Sonja disappeared into the water when he was a boy and was never seen again, and now he hopes to protect anyone from making often fatal escape attempts.

These “shipwrecked” individuals are given places to sleep for a few nights and experience the island’s unique freedom, take part in bizarre rituals and social gatherings. Ed has an exhausting and almost unwanted sexual awakening, taking young women into his bed and listening to their stories. Over the long summer, the island fills up with more and more visitors, official and unofficial. Yet as the radio in the kitchen gradually reveals, there are now other ways to leave the country; it is 1989 and the East German state is leeching around the edges. 

The island setting makes for great reading, aside from its structural role as a microcosm of society (with the church, the bars, the army, the Stasi, etc.). There’s the tangible temporary utopia of summer holidays, followed by the forlorn atmosphere of an empty seaside resort in autumn. Seiler also gives us a lot of loving detail about how the Klausner is run, even down to the finer points of the washing up process. He describes all the people who work there minutely – the crew of the ship, as he often puts it – detailing their strange tics and their roles in the team, their favourite drinks, in some cases the way they smell. We feel Ed's and Kruso's, while all this close description makes the atmosphere overwhelmingly powerful and moving, and can make the reading quite gruelling at times. 

Things come to an initial climax on the “Day of the Island”, when all the seasonal staff have a day off at the same time and stage a football tournament and a beach party. The border guards mount a show of strength, Kruso is arrested, and Ed is beaten to a pulp by a despised colleague. After that, nothing is the same. The seasonal staff who gave the island its sense of freedom begin to disappear, many of them travelling to Hungary and from there to the West. No more shipwrecked runaways turn up to the rituals and the Klausener empties of both staff and visitors as autumn draws in.

Eventually, only Ed and Kruso are left, bound to each other by their friendship and trying to keep the restaurant running on a shoestring. Drinking more than ever, they both lose their grip on reality and when Kruso too disappears, Ed is desperate. Things come to a head and then to a sudden and nightmarish ending.

In an epilogue, Seiler switches to a first-person narrator (Edgar Bendler), who tells the story of how he tries to find Sonja after learning in 1993 that Kruso had died. We find out that there are an estimated fifteen unidentified corpses that washed up on the Danish coast between 1961 and 1989, presumed to be East German refugees who drowned trying to swim across the Baltic. Twenty years on, the narrator finally tracks down the records.

Kruso is a highly literary novel, and yet very moving as well. It contains a great many literary references, above all to Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Ed is perfectly aware that he’s Kruso’s Friday, his loyal assistant, and their relationship is one of the key aspects of the book – a close and at times latently homoerotic friendship between two men, one of whom is very much the leader and the other the follower. The novel also contains a lot of poetry, especially by the expressionist Georg Trakl, perhaps because of his presumed incestuous love for his sister. Seiler is extremely well respected as a poet, and his precision makes his descriptions shine. He writes about nature on the island, but also about stomach-churning details such as the mass of grease and hair that gathers below the plugs in the kitchen sinks, which Kruso buries beneath his herb garden in one of his obscure rituals – one of several key scenes in which the two main characters bond, naked.

This loaded style makes the book a slow read but a rewarding one. Seiler builds tension incredibly well as his characters drift further and further away from sanity, tying in with the political developments. The novel is too complex to be taken as a straightforward allegory for the breakdown of the GDR. But it does capture the mood in East Germany’s young dropout subcultures, namedropping the drinks and the music and the fashions of the time in among its many layers of detail. At the same time, much of the action is dreamlike, with Ed sharing his thoughts with a decaying fox cadaver or recalling snatches of drunken evenings.

Seiler himself worked at the Klausner on Hiddensee, a real establishment that was a haven for a number of East German intellectual dropouts, including other poets. I think his book is a great way to mark twenty-five years since the fall of the Wall, a literary tribute to a lost micro-culture that was perhaps only so free because it was surrounded by constraints. It raises ideas of what people miss about the GDR – and there are plenty of things they do miss – and why that might be. Kruso really is an outstanding book. English rights haven't yet sold, so now would be the time to snap it up. Publisher Suhrkamp has a long sample translation on its website, by Bradley Schmidt and Alexander Booth. 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

2014's German Book Prize Shortlist Announced

They've announced the shortlist of six titles in the running for the big German book prize:

Thomas Hettche: Pfaueninsel
Angelika Klüssendorf: April
Gertrud Leutenegger: Panischer Frühling
Thomas Melle: 3000 Euro
Lutz Seiler: Kruso
Heinrich Steinfest: Der Allesforscher 

That's most of my favourites out of the running, then. Just last night I had a drunken conversation with fab German writer Christiane Neudecker about who might win. We're going to make a bet. I say Seiler, she says Klüssendorf. Tilman Rammstedt said Nawrat but he wasn't going to join in our bet anyway. I think the winner gets a cake baked for her by the loser - of the bet, not the book prize.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Things To Do in Berlin This Week

You're in Berlin and you're stuck for something to do? What a good job you came here, then.

Tomorrow you can come along to my event at the ACUD Club featuring Brittani Sonnenberg and Christiane Neudecker, co-hosted with Slow Travel Berlin. Here's what they say about it. It's up to you whether to believe the hype.

On Wednesday you could go out to the LCB at Wannsee for the launch of Jochen Schmidt and David Wagner's new book about growing up in East Berlin and Bonn. What fun.

On Thursday you could learn about how beautiful books are made, in India and Germany, as part of the International Literature Festival at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele. And you should because the panel is made up of Seagull Books' publisher and designer Naveen Kishore and Sunandini Banerjee (who designed the festival posters but the website is such a traincrash I can't find a link to them), plus Matthes & Seitz publisher and designer Andreas Rötzer and Judith Schalansky. Afterwards you might like to pop back East to the Ocelot bookshop for a mysterious thing called a Bookup – perhaps even just to find out what on earth it is.

On Friday I don't have a literary event for you, but if you like dancing to old-fashioned music you might like to try Das Hotel. I personally will be staying in.

On Saturday you can see Eliot Weinberger, Maren Kames, David Wagner and me reading from stuff in the basement of a hostel. If you're very nice I might take you out dancing afterwards.

You might like a bit of a break after all that, but you could start all over again on Tuesday the 16th, with New German Voices Karen Köhler and Marianna Salzmann at the book festival.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

My Take on the 2014 Longlist

So here comes the 2014 love german books take on the German Book Prize longlist. It’s based mainly on the reader containing short samples from all the listed titles, plus the publishers’ information and various other snippets of gossip, etc. As ever, there are a few things the novels have in common, or perhaps categories that reflect the judges’ taste. There’s a lot of crime and film and German history, plus a sprinkling of big cities and nature writing. Plus I’ve given you a tiny sample translation from each one.

Lukas Bärfuss: Koala
A very personal novel exploring the narrator’s reactions to his brother’s suicide. The dead brother’s nickname was Koala, so the narrator (a writer) also looks into marsupials and how humans treat them. The sample is quite sharp, peppered with humorous self-hate, and I assume the pretentious-seeming opening will give way to something more searing, as we say, later on.
Sample sentences: “In any case, Daisy hung on my every word and was amused by my interest in masturbating mothers, and by the time I was standing in the empty road at four in the morning, I mourned less the speaker’s fee splashed in the space of a few hours than the loss of Daisy, who had bid a speedy farewell as soon as last orders were called and left me behind with my literary explanations and the unpaid bill.”
Themes: family, first-person, life and death, nature

I’ve read all of this one and it’s very impressive indeed. Six perspectives on migration, flight and relocation (plus one from an ape on the book’s website), looking at how enforced relocation ripples through generations, particularly in Germany and Poland. Distinctive voices raising all sorts of issues, life stories, love stories, stories of quick escapes and slow arrivals. A tricky read in often beautiful prose that adds up to an excellent book.
Sample sentences: “When other people heard “got rid of” they thought of their teenage years, abortion discussions, protests. I always envisaged my grandparents’ ground-floor flat, armchairs and settee upholstered with flowered cord, that too grey and brown.”
Themes: German history, family, first-person, multiple narrators, nature

Antonio Fian: Das Polykrates-Syndrom
A married man’s unexciting life is turned on its head by a girl called Alice. What starts out extremely funny apparently turns dark and gruesome. The sample made me write exclamation marks in the margins – genuinely very funny stuff.
Sample sentences: “‘We’ll light a big candle for my father,’ I said as I held the door open for my mother. ‘He was a nice Nazi.’”
Themes: Vienna, family, first-person, crime, humour

Now this one is utterly intriguing. I have the whole book here on my desk because I can tell nothing at all from the sample except that I want to read more. A description of a documentary about birds; it seems rather meta. After Fian’s light-hearted thrills this is quite hard to read, but I suspect it contains all sorts of exciting ideas that will pay the reader back for their effort.
Sample sentences: “Dust on the instruments, the smell of dried-out beer, a focused light that warmed his hand, when he raised it against the beam, like a fire. He had no idea of what he was doing here, and yet he sensed this excitement as though he were someone from the nineteenth century watching a film for the first time.”
Themes: film, nature, who knows?

Thomas Hettche: Pfaueninsel
One of the more conventional novels of the list, this one is set on Peacock Island outside Berlin and features early-19th-century dwarves, for want of a better word, and landscape gardeners. It’s not to my taste, not only because I’m not interested in royal menageries, but also because I find the writing deliberately twee. I hope it gets less saccharine as the book goes on but I doubt I will ever find out.
Sample sentences: “When the boy noticed how very much the answer he had tried to give to his queen in a friendly and benevolent manner shocked the latter, and how disgustedly her eyes felt him up and down, he emitted a terrible wail, turned around and disappeared into the undergrowth.”
Themes: nature, German history

Esther Kinsky: Am Fluss
I spent actual money on this book because I love the idea and the style of it so much. Beautiful writing about the outskirts of London and the River Lea, presumably concealing a story that will worm its way out slowly as we go along. It might be about loneliness or a failed relationship, or it might not. I don’t really care because Kinsky’s prose is so focused and impressive. The book has occasional photos in it but no one’s mentioned Sebald so far.
Sample sentences: “The king wore a magnificent headdress made of stiff brocade with a feather-adorned clasp that held the fabric together. Both the golden threads in the brocade material and the clasp were still shining in the decreasing light.”
Themes: nature, London, first-person, loneliness

Angelika Klüssendorf: April
Part two of a series based around the writer’s own younger days in East Germany, this is more sobering stuff. Klüssendorf’s style is stripped bare, which makes her protagonist’s life seem all the more stark. Having got free from her awful mother, the nameless girl of the first book calls herself April and starts her adult life. I find the content hard to deal with because I find myself constantly pitying the protagonist and wanting to congratulate the writer on dragging herself out of her pit. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. I do notice, however, that it’s hard to write about the book without dredging up clichés.
Sample sentences: “They go into the kitchen with the old woman. She’s never seen such a dark kitchen; even the man looks astounded. The floor is tiled pitch black, the walls are covered in dark, shiny emulsion, the kitchen cupboard and even the sink lined with black linoleum.”
Themes: implicit first-person, family, loneliness, German history

Michael Köhlmeier: Zwei Herren am Strand
The two gentlemen in question are Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin, great buddies in 1931. I am reminded of an exercise in a creative writing workshop for translators, in which we had write down two characters and were then told to think up a story about them falling in love. I picked Homer Simpson and Charlie Chaplin and then cursed my choice. My story was funnier but would not have filled 256 pages. The sample from Köhlmeier’s story reads like well researched but rather dry non-fiction with a tiny dash of meta-narrative.
Sample sentences: “It was only when Chaplin, his hands forming a cone around his mouth, called as loudly as he could – he couldn’t speak loudly – through the gap in the door into which he had jammed his knee, ‘Winston, Winston, it’s me, Charlie. I’m here, Winston. I’ve come!’ and Churchill, whose room was fortunately on the ground floor, called back for his own part, as loudly as he could – he couldn’t speak loudly either in those days – ‘Glad tidings you bring!’ that they let him enter.”
Themes: British history, New York, film

Martin Lechner: Kleine Kassa
This would appear to be a fast-paced adventure novel with a crime-induced plot. I quite enjoyed the prose in the sample, which seems to revel in detail, and there’s humour here too.
Sample sentence: “He rushed on, clambered over moss-coated giants felled by lightning, grabbed accidentally at blue-pimpled mushrooms, shook the mush off his hand so hard that it splashed, kicked out at ivy fronds wrapped around his ankles as though they wanted to tear his legs from his rump, sunk into the ground again, an unappetizingly slurping bog, shouted in rage over the second dung-brown trouser leg, polished it wildly across his shoe and stamped on through the gradually smothering light.”
Themes: humour, crime, nature

Gertrud Leutenegger: Panischer Frühling
I’m puzzled by this one. The sample feels rather similar to Esther Kinsky’s book, except relating to the Thames rather than the Lea. Again there’s a shadowy first-person narrator looking for something or other in London, finding traces of her own stories around the city. The publishers insist there is a plot, though, involving a missing person. I think it’s unfortunate that it’s going head to head with Kinsky because if I had to choose which has the more exciting style, it would not be Leutenegger. I suppose that’s the tragic and ridiculous thing about book prizes.
Sample sentences: “It was no longer the oak islands circling on the river but that lime green room with its forest, and with it the whole parsonage, the red reception room, the blue cabinet, the bower, July’s heat and bright nights.”
Themes: London, first-person, nature

Charles Lewinsky: Kastelau
Well, the sample surprised me and made me laugh. It’s another film story, with another meta-narrative, about people making a movie in the Alps in 1944, except they’re not really. I enjoyed the pretend archive material and am rather interested to know how the author takes us from present-day Hollywood to Nazi-era Bavaria. Oddly compelling, I wrote in my notes.
Sample sentence: “I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. He’s even taking the mickey out of me from his grave, grinning at my disappointment and then turning away with a shrug, just like he turns away in Real Men after he’s shot the cattle thief. Turns his back on the loser and never looks back.”
Themes: film, German history

Thomas Melle: 3000 Euro
A love story between two apparent losers in life: a single mum waiting to get paid the titular 3000 euros for making a porn film, and a broke and homeless ex-law student. The sample did awaken my interest but I can’t say what makes it special – maybe the subject matter: people at the bottom of the pyramid, the kind of characters middle-class writers often neglect, as critics keep pointing out. There certainly seems to be plenty of real-life grit and misery here.
Sample sentence: “Anton is dreaming a thin dream in which there are no arseholes any more. Jana enters his room, or is it an industrial grotto; Anton has to operate a machine that punches something out, banknotes out of metal, perhaps.”
Themes: hard times, love, film

Matthias Nawrat: Unternehmer
Ah, I remember really admiring the part of this novel that Nawrat read for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize last year. It’s a dystopian story where children forage for recyclable material with their father. I love the confusion and the slightly skewed language, that sense of a family gone wrong that could in fact just be a society gone wrong. Reading the sample made me want to translate it, and that’s always an exciting impulse.
Sample sentence: “In the evening we sit in the cellar with Father and do the extra-hot wash, top secret. It’s not easy to free the hearts from the casings. In the sulphuric acid, the copper coils and circuit boards sweat bubble-armour.”
Themes: hard times, family

Christoph Poschenrieder: Das Sandkorn
Set in 1914, the novel tells the story of a man afraid of being exposed as a homosexual. It opens with him sprinkling Italian sand around Berlin and getting picked up by the police. Love, taboos and detectives. It’s not to my taste but I can imagine readers who like straight-forward historical fiction and romance would really go for it.
Sample sentence: “‘Art historian. What does an art historian actually do then?’ Well, what, thinks Tolmeyn. He tries to understand people through the beautiful things they created, and to understand beauty through what the people thought, did and wrote.”
Themes: German history, love, crime, multiple narrators

Lutz Seiler: Kruso
Really, this is the one that blows my mind the most on the list. I read it ages ago but I still have some of the astounding images and writing in my head. A community of dropouts and poets on an island in the Baltic experiences the end of the GDR, while a remarkable friendship develops. Extremely intricate prose from one of Germany’s most respected poets, containing allusions to Robinson Crusoe but not slavishly loyal. Almost intimidatingly good.
Sample sentences: “The light of the setting sun projected shapes into the woods, wishful images and voices. Ed tried to concentrate on his trousers: trousers, belt, shirt. An all-inundating joy had begun to pulse inside him and made his hands tremble. There was nothing he could do about it.”
Themes: German history, love, life and death

Saša Stanišić: Vor dem Fest
Now, I wasn’t going to say anything but actually it seems a tiny bit silly to put this book on the list, seeing as it won the big Spring book prize in Leipzig. But OK, it is indeed a very fine book. What feels like a hundred people tell the stories of one village in East Germany, and the readers get to revel in Saša Stanišić’s love of words.
Sample sentences: “Silent Suzi cast the line out again. He’d taken a short break due to Lada’s accident. Suzi loves angling more than anything. If you’re born dumb you’re kind of predestined for angling. Mind you, dumb’s not the right word. The politically correct version would be: voice box kaput.”
Themes: hard times, multiple narrators, family, German history

Heinrich Steinfest: Der Allesforscher
This is a fun, plot-led novel with more film description in the sample. A man’s life goes off the rails when he gets hit by part of an exploding whale. And why not? I think it might have a crime element to it but it’s hard to tell.
Sample sentences: “There are two films and their musical scores that have influenced modern man’s relationship to water: Jaws and Psycho. One the sea, one the shower.”
Themes: family, humour, film

Marlene Streeruwitz: Nachkommen.
I like this. I like the author’s short sentences. I like the anger in the sample. It’s a bit of a provocation to write a novel about a young woman nominated for the German Book Prize but why the hell not. I think it’s more about the difficulties of family life but I shall be reading more of it and can’t wait to find out. Streeruwitz has been kicking up a stink over inherent sexism behind the book prize – not calling for quotas, as far as I remember, but calling out the organizers on non-representative language. The whole thing has made the conversation more interesting.
Sample sentences: “She looked into the coffin. Looked down at the face. At the head. She looked into the face. Leaned over the face and kissed the face on the forehead. The forehead. Waxily sweaty. The refrigerated corpse doused in condensation.”
Themes: Vienna, family

Feridun Zaimoglu: Isabel
A too-old actress leaves her partner and then meets a veteran from the war in Kosovo. Traumas ensue. Again, I can’t tell from the sample what’s so special about the novel and the writing itself is unexciting. The publishers imply it may be gritty realism.
Sample sentences: “Outside: dripping moon. She let Ruby off the leash, whistled her back – her barking scared the women. Dog and mistress walked to the club in the subway. The doorman waved her through, he knew her ex, he knew about their separation, he didn’t care.”
Themes: Berlin, hard times, love

Michael Ziegelwagner: Der aufblasbare Kaiser
Funny! A young woman with a messy life happens upon a society of monarchists in Vienna. I enjoyed reading the sample and also the author’s tongue-in-cheek contribution to the “book prizes are unfair” discussion. Stuff like this makes literary life more interesting.
Sample sentences: “You’re sitting in a Scottish strip club where you don’t feel comfortable, there to accompany a girlfriend of whom you’re no longer sure why you like her; taking part in a rally against the Viennese parking-space policy as a covert monarchist agitator, or feeling strangely satisfied at having slipped in the bathtub. ‘It turned out that way’ – but how?”
Themes: Vienna, humour

It’s tricky to pick favourites but my personal shortlist might be Seiler, Nawrat, Draesner, Kinsky, Streeruwitz, and… oh, either Lewinsky or Melle or Ziegelwagner. The actual shortlist is announced on Wednesday, 10 September.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Don't Forget the Kicks

I seem to be insanely busy, but there's just time to remind you to come to this next Tuesday:

See you there!