Tuesday, 8 July 2008

A Book You Can't Buy (Yet)

This looks exciting: an 80-page book featuring extracts from all 20 books longlisted for this year's German Book Prize. Plus details on the authors and an interview with last year's winner, Julia Franck.

Except they're not announcing the longlist until 20 August, and you can only pre-order a minimum of 25 copies. So we'll all just have to twiddle our thumbs for a while longer.

I know a lot of people disapprove of the German Book Prize. I think the argument is that it highlights commercially viable books and rewards un-adventurous writing (particularly novels with historical subject matter). But its expressed goal is "to draw attention beyond national borders to authors writing in German, to reading and to the keynote medium of the book." And that is now working, people. Plus there are enough terribly serious, highly respected, utterly highbrow literary awards in the German-speaking world to well and truly cover that side of things.

If you ask me, the fact that foreign publishers now snap up the shortlisted books like eighties revivalists descending on fluorescent ra-ra skirts at a second-hand shop actually opens doors for other, slightly more experimental writers. Maybe not in huge numbers right now, but I predict a riot of new German writing hitting the UK/US in the next five years or so, if the people behind it manage to pursue an aggressive foot-in-the-door strategy. Just don't quote me on that.

Last night I dreamed I'd written a bad fantasy novel and gave a reading, which only about three very critical critics attended. They asked probing questions, to which I could only respond with twee answers ("It's not entirely free from kitsch, no..."). It was all rather upsetting, even though the moderator (an actual person but I won't name them for fear of embarrassing them) did their very best, despite their own obvious contempt for my bad fantasy novel. Is there something I should read out of this, perhaps?

1 comment:

Tom C said...

Thanks for commenting on mine about book shops. I suspect the German market has not quite descended to the British low where cookery books and celeb biogs are quite so dominant. I wish we had more modern German literature in translation to English as it sounds like the German publishing is very vibrant and its good to read of other European cultures. I am still looking for another book like the Shoe Tester of Frankfurt which was perhaps my favorite read this year.