Monday, 8 September 2008

Berlin Publishing: Rowohlt Berlin

The second publisher we visited with the LCB summer academy was Rowohlt Berlin. In the 1990s quite a few German publishers decided to set up branch offices in the new capital, as Berlin had been the pre-war publishing hub and as it's closer to Eastern Europe than Frankfurt, Cologne or Munich. And the nature of Berlin determines the publishing programme at Rowohlt Berlin - political and other non-fiction titles, fiction from eastwards of Germany and up-and-coming authors such as Kerstin Fuchs and Jan Böttcher. They have a small but perfectly formed headquarters in Kreuzberg, where we were met by their brand new editor, Susann Rehlein. Again, she was genuinely enthusiastic about most of the books they publish and looking forward to her new job. And she too was very generous on the free books front. She reads Russian and has the time and energy to spend those long drunken hours out scouting for literary discoveries around Berlin.

The catalogue is a solid mixture of fluffy and heavyweight titles, often with a slight edge to them - Kathrin Passig and Sascha Lobo's Dinge geregelt kriegen, for example, is a manual for getting through life without self-discipline. Next to a "biography" of the German basic law and the autobiography of a famous sex-education guru, Oswald Kolle. I've already shared my admiration for Jan Böttcher's Nachglühen here, but I'm also very much looking forward to the next book by FC Delius, another Rowohlt Berlin author. Apparently it's going to be a monologue and love story dictated by Konrad Zuse. I really liked an earlier story of Delius', The Pears of Ribbeck (Exile Editions 1991, trans. H. Werner), which is also a monologue as I remember, all in one very, very, very long sentence, on the subject of German reunification, West German arrogance and the history of an agricultural village.

What else did we learn? That selling 30,000 copies will get you onto the German non-fiction bestseller list at the moment. And that Rowohlt Berlin is generally one to watch.


Susan Bernofsky said...

Glad you're having such a good time w/ the Sommerakademie. I loved it when I participated a few years back. Thanks for visiting my blog too!

kjd said...

I had a great time and life seems so dull now it's over...