Monday, 16 June 2008

Denis Scheck's Best of Contemporary German Books

Following up on the piece about the Helen & Kurt Wolff Symposium, Three Percent has now reproduced Denis Scheck's recommendations for contemporary German books.

It's a very impressive list, with two of my favourites on it - Karen Duve's Taxi and Feridun Zaimoglu's Leyla. He also tips his hat at two books from the Piper Gebrauchsanweisungen series - sort of travel guides written by established authors. I used to have the Berlin one by Jakob Hein but was stuck for a birthday present at the last moment, but the London one by Ronald* Reng is right here on my desk.

I don't share his enthusiasm for Marcel Beyer's Kaltenburg or for Zaimoglu's latest, Liebesbrand. But he apparently said that what ends up in English translation doesn't reflect contemporary German literature - and I'm with him all the way there. What with all the translations of writing from the first half of the twentieth century and earlier that seem to come out in English, the awards-led selection of titles and the whole Wetlands statistical distortion, one might think the only thing that interests German-language writers nowadays is prize money and piles.

Interestingly, one of his tips is Arno Geiger's Es geht uns gut, the first winner of the German Book Prize in 2005. At first I thought, what's he going on about? That must be available in translation by now! But no - unlike the other winners and many of the shortlisted titles since, this book hasn't found its way into English yet. I'm astounded, but perhaps all the fuss about Austrian culture will help push this novel (I haven't read it), which Daniela Strigl describes as "both the secretly longed-for novel of postwar Austria and at the same time the story of a family." Good luck to it.

*Compare this photo with any of Kevin Vennemann - whose novel Close to Jedenew has just come out in Ross Benjamin's translation - to see how my taste in good-looking authors differs from HJ's... Except the haircut. But maybe it's just the tattoo.

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