Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Hotlist Longlist and Voting Announced

Woah! They've announced the thirty candidates for the German indie book prize, the gruesomely betitled Hotlist. Lots and lots and lots of outstanding indie books, encompassing poetry, novels and short stories, and diaries by dead anarchists. About a third of the titles are translations.

They've managed to avoid last year's embarrassing pitfall of letting the public vote too early on - which meant people with a lot of computer-literate friends and relatives got their books onto the shortlist - I think by simply choosing thirty of the best from the word go. And really, there are some absolute jewels here. I literally can't decide between Simon Urban's Plan D, which is just plain amazing, Steven Uhly's Adams Fuge, which I haven't read yet but was intrigued by at a recent reading, and Lee Rourke's The Canal. Plus I'd love to get stuck into Nino Haratischwili's new book and I bet Carl Weissner's is worth reading too. Oh God, maybe I should change the name of this blog to Love German Indie Books.

You can vote on your favourite online, and there are samples from all the books on the site too. I hope I make it to the glitzy awards ceremony, especially as I know one of the judges again this year.

Anyway, here's the full list:

Belleville Naomi Schenk/Ulrich Rüdenauer (Hrsg.): Archiv verworfener Möglichkeiten

Corso Georg Stefan Troller (Hrsg.): corsofolio Paris

Diaphanes Joseph Mitchell: McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon

Dittrich Roland E. Koch: Dinge, die ich von ihm weiß

Droschl Monique Schwitter: Goldfischgedächtnis

Edition Rugerup Les Murray: Größer im Liegen

Eichborn DBC Pierre: Das Buch Gabriel

Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt Nino Haratischwili: Mein sanfter Zwilling

Haymon Andrej Kurkow: Der wahrhaftige Volkskontrolleur

Jung und Jung Katharina Geiser: Diese Gezeiten

Klöpfer & Meyer Nina Jäckle: Zielinski

Kookbooks Daniela Seel: Ich kann diese Stelle nicht wiederfinden

Kunstmann Paul Murray: Skippy stirbt

Libelle Christoph Meckel: Russische Zone

Luftschacht Martin Mandler: 23 Tage

Luxbooks John Ashbery: Ein weltgewandtes Land

Mairisch Lee Rourke: Der Kanal

Merlin Tahar Ben Jelloun: Jean Genet

Milena Carl Weissner: Die Abenteuer von Trashman

Rotbuch Akos Doma: Die allgemeine Tauglichkeit

Schöffling Simon Urban: Plan D

Secession Steven Uhly: Adams Fuge

Stroemfeld Peter Kurzeck: Vorabend

Taberna Kritika Franz Dodel: Von Tieren

Transit Indri Thorsteinsson: Taxi 79 ab Station

Verbrecher Erich Mühsam: Tagebücher, Bd. 1 1910-1911

Wagenbach Ascanio Celestrini: Schwarzes Schaf

Walde+Graf Christian Saehrendt: Die radikale Absenz des Ronny Läpplinger

Weidle Heinz Hilpert: So wird alles Schwere entweder Leicht oder Leben

weissbooks.w Breece D’J Pancake: Stories

Locked in a Bookshop Overnight

Things are a tad hectic over here, as we rush to complete our translations of the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize entries. Obviously I can't tell you anything about them or I'd be shot by a literary court martial, but I have a feeling the competition will be fun. And I'll be blogging it live with my special translatorly insights.

To tide you over, read my fellow translator Isabel Bogdan's account of how she spent a whole night running wild in a bookshop. In German. Try not to be too envious though, it's bad for the complexion.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Wolfenbüttel Manifesto - 10 Theses on Blogging for Translators

This is an initial outcome of the workshop on blogging for translators I held in Wolfenbüttel last weekend. You can read the original German at Die Übersetzer. Comments are welcome, preferably over there.

1. Translators are experts. We often know the works we translate almost as well as the writers do, and usually better than their editors. We know the countries whose literatures we translate, and we know the respective literatures themselves. Not least, we have a firm command of our own languages and we play a role in their development, consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or not.

2. Yet translators are often invisible. In reviews, on book covers, in advertising material – often enough, our work and our mere existence are denied. Like vampires, we do not appear in the mirror held up to the public, are seen at times as literary parasites with no life-giving ideas of our own. You can tell a good translation if you don’t notice it’s translated, they say. Whether this old maxim still holds true or not, it doesn’t mean that we translators have to remain invisible.

3. The internet provides a wealth of opportunities for expressing ourselves to a theoretically unlimited audience.

4. A blog is one of these possibilities. With a minimum of technical input, it can be used to spread our ideas, bringing ourselves, our projects and possibly our entire profession out into the public eye.

5. Reader comments and networking with other bloggers enable a dialogue that would otherwise not take place at all.

6. Bearing in mind that the readership is theoretically unlimited – and thanks to online translation services no longer even restricted by language – a translation blog ought to be as readable as possible. In cases where we want to present our work to the uninitiated, we don’t want to scare off this readership.

7. On the other hand, a blog also enables a more intensive dialogue with other translators, possibly from around the world. We need a space for writing about specific professional and translation issues, where we can discuss our work and the way we see ourselves.

8. In the German-speaking world, there are very few links between translation theorists and practitioners. A blog could be an attempt to connect the ivory tower with the ground crew, provided discussion takes place in a generally readable form. It could also involve students of literary translation, who often reflect their own work more than established translators.

9. A blog should be fun to read. As translators, we have the rhetorical tools at our fingertips for writing well. We ought to use them. It can be incredibly liberating to put your own words down on an empty blog page rather than interpreting others’ as usual. Writing freely also has advantages for our translation work, even if it’s something as banal as helping us to find new formulations.

10. All too often, translators are reticent people who shy away from the limelight. For some time though, especially in Germany, we have been raising our voices through readings we organise ourselves, the PR work of the professional organisations, letters to newspapers, etc. Let’s take another step out of the shadow of our writers and create our own platform.

Friday, 24 June 2011

That Kämmerlings' List

A commenter asked me to post Richard Kämmerlings' list of ten good books that deal with the present day from the past twenty years, from his book Das kurze Glück der Gegenwart, which I reviewed here.

So here it is in chronological order:

Marcel Beyer, Flughunde (1995) (published as The Karnau Tapes in 1997, trans. John Brownjohn)
Ingo Schulze, Simple Storys (1998) (Simple Stories, 2002, trans. John E. Woods)
Rainald Goetz, Abfall für alle (1999)
Thomas Lehr, Nabokovs Katze (1999)
Christoph Peters, Stadt Land Fluss (1999)
Annett Gröschner, Moskauer Eis (2000)
Martin Kluger, Abwesende Tiere (2002)
Ernst-Wilhelm Händler, Wenn wir sterben (2002)
Terézia Mora, Alle Tage (2004) (Day In Day Out, 2007, trans. Michael Henry Heim)
Clemens J. Setz, Die Frequenzen (2009)

Three translations out of ten is not bad at all.

Monday, 20 June 2011

On Translators and Photographers

One of the difficult things about being a translator is that you essentially work alone. So get-togethers like the VDÜ's annual Wolfenbüttel knees-up are especially rewarding, as we have a rare chance for a good gossip.

This year I talked to the translator and writer Ebba Drolshagen, who was attending in her capacity as a photographer - the third string to her bow. She was telling me how photographers are supposed to be invisible, especially when shooting reportage pictures. There's a tacit agreement that we ignore the photographer, don't look at the camera when we're being photographed and pretend to be getting on with whatever we're doing. But in actual fact, the photographer has a huge influence over the picture, choosing the subject matter, the angle, how to frame the shot. So the end product very much bears the photographer's signature, even though we may not acknowledge it.

Translators, we decided, are not dissimilar. That old adage about how a translation should be unobtrusive, true to the original and beautiful still holds. Readers don't want to be reminded of the translator's role in the finished book, we're told. Translators too are expected to remain invisible, standing behind the camera, as it were, while they choose the words, copy the tone and capture the mood. No two translations are the same, just as two photographers would always reproduce the same scene differently. Neither the photographer nor the translator are neutral, always interpreting and recreating through their own gaze.

So here's to the creativity of photography and translation, two wonderful and underappreciated arts that make life richer for everyone.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Wolfenbüttel Playlist

In case you've ever wondered what gets German literary translators jumping up and down and shouting on the dancefloor, you can head to the special blog we're creating for the Wolfenbütteler Gespräch. A playlist of twelve top movers and shakers from DJs Lang & Scheidt.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Off to Wolfenbüttel

Tomorrow sees the start of the annual three-day social gathering of German literary translators known as the Wolfenbütteler Gespräch. I'll be holding a workshop on blogging for translators. I suspect I'd be better at holding a workshop on pant-wetting during public appearances for translators, but hey. There are only three award-winning translators in my group, I'm sure I'll be fine.

I was asked to present the workshop, possibly because blogging isn't really something many literary translators do in Germany. Or to be precise, there are literary translators who blog, like my friends Isabel Bogdan and Rasha Khayat. But they tend to do so in more of a private than professional capacity. What I'd love to come out of the workshop would be a collaborative project in which German literary translators blog about their work, their books, the countries they're familiar with, and so on.

But to get started I want to show the group what blogs are already out there, think about the whys and wherefores, talk about what works and what doesn't, and give them a tiny taste of blogging by putting together a special one-off blog about the annual get-together itself. Watch this space for more details.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Just to Reassure You

Dear readers,

Please rest assured that I am not a middle-aged man posing as a woman. That photo on the left is really of me; I did not steal it from someone I don't know. The opinions I state on this blog are my own, as is the name I write under. The few details I have revealed about myself are true. Except maybe that thing about going on tour with the Beastie Boys in 1992.

I've been following the unravelling of lesbian blogger identities behind the "gay girl in Damascus" and now "Paula Brooks". And I have to say I find the phenomenon fascinating. Feminists predicted some years ago that the internet would dissolve gender identities, but it didn't actually appear to be doing so. One reason was that social media sites insisted on profiles being either male or female, and of course many people use them to display their gendered sexual identities, particularly via photos. So while we have more opportunities than ever to state our opinions anonymously, we tend to do so in a gendered way. Don't believe me? Go to any online article dealing with feminism and see what people say in the comments.

What's interesting here though is that two heterosexual men have been posing as lesbian women, in one case of a different ethnicity too. It's obviously cooler to be a lesbian activist than to be a heterosexual man, in certain circles. And you know, there are days when I wake up in the morning and am really grateful to be a woman. Why, only today I rejoiced in my lack of hair loss. But these two men have taken on identities as members of, let's say, doubly and triply oppressed minorities - because they say people wouldn't have taken them seriously otherwise.

Leaving aside questions of boundaries between fact and fiction and whether anyone's taking them seriously now, I have to say this is the most patronising thing I've heard in a long time. These men assumed false identities because they felt their opinions on female sexuality were equally if not more relevant than those of actual lesbians. In the case of "Amina", we also have an element of western paternalism, with an American assuming a Syrian identity to "combat liberal Orientalism". From priveleged positions, they both attempted to fight other people's battles for them. Good intentions perhaps, but so condescending.

There's a tendency to do this in German books too. Think of the crime writer Jakob Arjouni, whose detective Kemal Kayankaya and colourful assumed surname made critics think he was Turkish to begin with. He's exonerated himself in my mind though by writing well about all manner of things. And let's not forget Günter Wallraff, who still blacks up in this day and age to "highlight racism", as if black people were incapable of doing so themselves.

It is possible, however, for white people to write about ethnic minorities, for heterosexual men to write about lesbians, without pretending to be them. The German examples that immediately spring to mind are the work of Raul Zelik (particularly Bastard, which centres on a German-Korean woman), Christoph Peters' Mitsoukos Restaurant, and Thorsten Becker's Sieger nach Punkten. All fiction, which is allowed. I can't actually think of any examples of male writers playing with female sexuality though.

Interestingly, the man who pretended to be Amina has written that he originally wanted to write fiction. Perhaps he should have done so, under his own name.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Translation Idol Mark IV – This Time It’s Personal

For the fourth time, the magazine of German literature in translation invites you to pit your wits against your peers in the now legendary talent contest Translation Idol – no man’s land sucht den Superübersetzer*.

To celebrate our monthly literary translation lab, no man’s land invites all those budding, successful and prizewinning German-English translators out there to join in our translation talent contest. Our previous events featuring Ron Winkler, Selim Özdogan and Jan Böttcher were huge successes with submissions from around the globe, which you can read on our website. And now that we’ve done poetry, prose and song lyrics, this time we have something in between. All you have to do is send us your translation of the passage below, an extract from the wonderful Verena Rossbacher’s forthcoming novel schlachten. Ein Alphabet der Indizien.

Translate it any which way you like – fast and loose, slow and steady, straight from the hip, give it a dialect, put it into iambic pentameter, recreate it as an opera libretto – whatever you want to do. You don’t have to be a seasoned professional – a passion for words is all it takes. Please send your translation for the contest (in Word or rtf format) by 1 July to: katy at interalia de. Don’t forget a brief paragraph about yourself and a telephone number where we can reach you, as we’ll be calling the winners live from the competition.

Ideally, you should be able to attend the contest itself, at 8 pm on 5 July at Dialogue Books, Schönleinstraße 31, 10967 Berlin (Kreuzberg). Just turn up with your translation, ready to read. The audience will vote on the winning version, and the writer will choose her own personal favourite. There’ll be prizes galore for the top Translation Idols. If you can’t attend, your text will be read on your behalf. It’s still well worth entering, as all entries will be published on the no man’s land website. Please let us know whether you’ll be coming to the contest when you send your translation.

So get your dictionaries out and get translating! Or just come along to participate in the audience vote and enjoy an entertaining evening of literature and translation.

no man’s land reserves the right to make a prior selection of entries for the contest itself, should the response be overwhelming.

* Oder die Superübersetzerin.


Josef von Nazaret bei der Diavorführung

Und es ist nur die Diashow, es sind doch und eigentlich nur anderer Leute Angelegenheiten und fremder Nachbarn Sitzgarnitur, aber da, da drauf und drin und mittendrin, da eingekastelt in gehortete Bilder und geworfen auf klaren Grund: deine Frau und als gehöre sie dazu, da sitzt und geht und steht auf anderer Leute Urlaubsbildern deine Frau und sie ist jung, sie ist schön und fremd und lacht, da lacht dir die Maria entgegen aus einer anderen Welt, da hat sie sieben Gesichter und alle kein Teil von dir, da ist die Maria und integriert, da ist die Maria und einer umfasst sie, da hat einer sie so um die Hüften gefasst und sie gehört zu mir, da schaut sie in die Kamera und von hinten um die Hüften gefasst, weil die Frau gehört zu mir, da steht inmitten andrer Leute Getümmel ein fremder Mann und hält eine Maria im Arm, um die Hüften, hat er die Hand auf dem Bauch und knapp über der Scham und ganz nah den Mund an ihrem Hals und als flüstere er ihr was zu, da hat der Mann einen Kopf mit kupfrigen Locken und schlanke Finger umfassen sanft ihren Bauch, was, sagt der Josef und als wär er taumeln, was ist, sagt der Josef und alles dreht sich um, die Hand am Glas, im Knabbergebäck, den Mund im Gelächter und heiteren Gespräch und wo ist das, fragen sie, wo ist das, das, sagt der Josef und schaut den Leuten in die Augen und ein allgemeines Innehalten im Kauen und Schlucken und lauschigen Abendvergnügen und wo ist das, sagen sie, wo ist das Problem wo ist denn das Problem, das, sagt der Josef, was, sagt der Josef und schaut sie an aber keiner schaut zurück, weil das gibt keiner zu, da will keiner der erste sein und der ders ihm sagt, da will keiner nichts gesehen haben und rein gar nichts gewusst und vor allem niemand dem Josef, was, sagt der Josef, und er steht auf und als würden sie zurückweichen und von ihm weg, zurück, sagt er, da tritt er hart ins poröse Licht und von dem schnaufenden Projektor, da ist er im Mittelpunkt und der Spot direkt auf ihm, da hat er im Rücken die bunten Bilder und die Welt dreht sich schnell, exakt und perfekt und korrekt mit der Diashow im Dreisekundentakt, das ist der Gang, der Lauf, das ist der Galopp der Welt, dreht sich ziemlich rasch, ist ganz schön schnell, zurück, das sagt er und wandert über die Gesichter mit den Augen zum sich wo festhalten, aber alle aalglatt und perfekt poliert und wie gut ausgebuttert und dass er abrutscht darauf, zurück, sagt er, und das meint er, da würde er gerne zurückspulen, die Bilder und das Hasten der Welt, anhalten, sagt er und Panik steigt auf, weil da rennt ihm was weg und weil die Bilder gehen und laufen und da rennt ihm was davon und da würd er gern was haschen und greifen, aber: spulen sich fort, da taktet die Maschine im Dreisekundenschrittt, da sind die Bilder Perlen auf der Schnur und Tropfen höhlen was aus, ausschalten, ruft der Josef und dreht sich um und keiner tut was, weil das geht keinen was an und wo in aller Welt ist denn das Problem, weil es würden die Leute gerne weiterknuspern und Getränke trinken und ganz unbescholten und behaglich dem unverbindlichen Verziehen der Münder frönen.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Confessions of a Poetry Pooper

The lovely Wiebke Porombka writes about poetry in Germany in today’s FAZ. Apparently it’s going through a boom in terms of productivity. Only nobody seems to be noticing apart from the usual suspects.

I have to admit I feel rather akin to the classic anecdotal poetry pooper Porombka cites in her article. German poet Gottfried Benn talked about a journalist who told him she didn’t care for poems – and certainly not for verse. Fortunately, the anecdote works better in German, which has a nice show-offy synonym for poetry: the liltingly pretentious term Lyrik.

Anyway, to get back to me, German poetry is not my strong point. I did try for some years to like it, but have rather given up now and resigned myself to a life of lowbrow literary philistinism. I will attend events at which poetry and prose are offered up alongside one another, but a pure poetry evening is now out of the question. Sorry.

This is terribly embarrassing and inconvenient, as I do now know the odd poet. Suffice to say, if you see me at a German poetry reading I either owe the poet a huge favour or I really, really like them as a person. And there’s a reason for that. Despite what Porombka claims, I don’t find that my uncertainty towards German poetry usually vanishes into thin air as soon as I hear poets reading their texts or talking about them. And nor do I find that most German poets manage to present their work in an unpretentious and readily understood way.

In fact I often find poetry – in either German or English – absolutely unsuited to the medium of the public reading. Many of the poets I’ve seen live here are the very opposite of good performers, mumbling their way through the show and then descending upon a beer to relieve the pressure. Please note, however, that I don’t mean this as a criticism as such.

By its very nature, as Porombka points out, poetry takes longer to read than your average prose. My mind, schooled as it is in spontaneous interpreting, is nevertheless incapable of processing poetry when it is read to me. I am easily distracted at the best of times, but put me in a room with a number of vaguely attractive peers and get someone to read poems out loud at the front, and my eyes and mind will wander almost instantly. Which is not an unpleasant activity, but it does make me feel a bit like a tone-deaf groupie. If I must, I will read poems at home. To myself.

But there’s a drawback to this inherent paper-boundness, and that’s down to the way the German literary business works. Its flourishing culture of literary events means writers can often earn a meagre living from their readings. Yes – they actually get paid to do it, once they reach a certain prominence level. There are writers who don’t have a literary agent but do have an events agent, and German writers are often taken aback when asked to read abroad for no fee.

So imagine you’re a struggling poet, living in a garret and applying for winter residencies on remote islands to save on heating costs. As the FAZ article points out, book sales are hardly going to see you through – if you’re even earning anything from them in the first place. You too would be tempted to venture into the public eye for €250, I’m sure. Only to look out at the audience and see a freckled lady quite obviously busy with other activities.

It’s a dilemma. Poetry is never going to make money. In fact much of the literature I admire is never going to be a profitable enterprise. That’s a good thing in one way, because an art form shouldn’t have to be a viable commodity. I hope poetry and literary prose will always find a way to survive, either in small presses run by self-exploitative individuals, supported by state arts funding, or subsidised by more commercial books as in the traditional German publishing model.

But what we have now is a culture of precarious poetic existences, in which a small handful of privileged – I won’t call them successful – poets can scrape by seemingly without taking on a full-time day job. And these are the poets who are forced to thrust themselves in our faces, commodifying if not necessarily their poetry, then at least their readings of it. Of the “young talents” Porombka lists, I’ve seen all but two of them reading their poems – and sometimes the exact same poems – several times over. And remember, I don’t even like poetry.

I sometimes think we might be better off if all German poets had to go out and get a proper job, much like the expat poetry scene in Berlin, whose work I find much more accessible. Of course I’d never say it out loud for fear of sounding like Norman Tebbit. Is it wrong to assume that poets whose existence revolves around poetry itself become self-indulgent and lose contact with everyone else’s reality over the years? Are self-indulgence and a lack of contact with what the rest of us call reality bad things? But as I listen for the fifth time to the same poem about water surfaces or personal insecurities or very possibly both, I do long for a more down-to-earth approach.

Lars Arvid Brischke, for instance, is an environmental scientist by day and writes his poetry in his spare time, and it doesn’t seem to suffer for it. Not knowing a great deal about poetry, I can’t come up with any more examples. But no doubt there are many and no doubt they have a different kind of input and possibly a different kind of output. Certainly I’d like to see more of them, see the part-time poets paid more attention in the press.

I like to hope I’m in the minority. I like to hope nobody else in the room is mentally criticising the poet’s hairdo or keeping tally of pseudy comments, let alone choosing which individual at the reading to procreate with, should the immanent end of the world be hailed by a surprise alien invasion. Perhaps the rest of the audience, utterly untroubled by linguistic issues, are communing with the verse and interpreting each word as it’s spoken. Because if that’s the case, perhaps poetry might even catch on.


Following on from that very ridiculous list of the allegedly most important German-language writers in FOCUS on Monday and from Richard Kämmerlings' top ten since 1989, a few people have started mumbling about lists of their own.

Do you happen to have a list of your personal best-beloved German books? If you'd do and you'd like to share it, drop me a line or post it in the comments section below. And although I mouthed off on Facebook about how dumb it is to rank writers, I did once list my top three German books since the year 2000 - still up there at Podularity. And guess what? I've since translated two of them.

Blocked in China

I'm told access to love german books is blocked in China. I can only assume it's because of this review of Christian Y. Schmidt's Allein unter 1.3 Milliarden. China obviously has some way to go to freedom of expression if this is all it takes.

Update: Thank heavens for the comments function. Turns out it's the very fact that I use blogspot that got love german books banned. Pretty poor show.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Call for Submissions – no man’s land # 6

Contemporary German-language fiction and poetry in English translation.
Deadline: August 6, 2011.

no man’s land, the online journal for contemporary German literature in translation, is seeking submissions for its 2011 issue.

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. No simultaneous submissions, please, and – with some possible exceptions** – no previously-published translations. The deadline is August 6, 2011 (postmark date), and we will inform contributors by early September 2011; the issue will go online in November. We regret that we are unable to 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 copy of a letter, or forward us an e-mail).

If you can include the original text in file format (PDF or other), we prefer that you send submissions electronically to Isabel Cole at Otherwise, mail them to no man’s land, PO Box 02 13 04, 10125 Berlin, Germany.

To save us time and keep us from misplacing your work, please observe the following guidelines for electronic submissions:

1) Submit all texts (poems or prose) by one author in the same file (i.e. not a separate file for each little poem).
2) 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.

Apologies if this sounds complicated, but it really would be 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

*Defined more or less 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.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Uptown Top Ranking (German Writers)

See dem in dey heels and ting
Dem check sey dey hip and ting

FOCUS magazine has done a ranking of the "most important" German-language writers, as trade mag Buchreport reports. They based it on book sales, reporting in the press, TV appearances, literary awards and other stuff including the Google news index.

Strutting their stuff in khaki suits are:

  1. Günter Grass
  2. Martin Walser
  3. Herta Müller
  4. Cornelia Funke
  5. Peter Handke
  6. Elfriede Jelinek
  7. Daniel Kehlmann
  8. Martin Mosebach
  9. Hans Magnus Enzensberger
  10. Ingo Schulze
And 40 others. What a load of old tosh.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Hans Keilson RIP

The writer Hans Keilson died on Tuesday at the age of 101 in a hospital in the Netherlands, where he lived. A Jewish German, he had left the country in 1936 after his first novel was published and promptly banned in 1933. His parents were murdered in Auschwitz, while he went undiscovered in Holland, helped the Dutch resistance and later became a psychoanalyst.

Of course, you may be aware of all this because Hans Keilson came to late fame after Francine Prose described him as a genius in the New York Times. If Philip Oltermann in the Guardian is to be believed, Keilson came to his unusual literary renaissance during his own lifetime because of the translator Damion Searls, who allegedly found Comedy in a Minor Key in a bargain bin outside an Austrian bookshop and fell in love. Setting off a domino effect in which the critics in the States and the UK loved it (and his re-released The Death of the Adversary, trans. Ivo Jarosy), and then the Germans rediscovered him.

Similarly to the Hans Fallada phenomenon, international interest in German fiction about everyday people resisting the Nazis has prompted reissues of Keilson's work in German too. His memoirs Da steht mein Haus, written in the 1990s, were published in April along with a collection of essays and a reprint of his first novel, Das Leben geht weiter. By all accounts he was a modest man surprised by his late success, who thoroughly deserved the literary attention he received.

Anthea Bell Interview

American trade mag Publishers Weekly has a lovely interview with translatress extraordinaire Anthea Bell, OBE. You really get the feeling this is one woman who absolutely loves her job - and who can blame her?

She talks about her work process, collaborating with authors including WG Sebald, and the growing field for international writing:

There was a period where not many foreign books were translated at all, but in recent years I think it’s become more open. Especially in the children’s market – with authors like Cornelia Funke becoming popular in the United States, publishers are more willing to look at foreign children’s books.