Wednesday, 2 December 2009

German Non-Fiction Books to Love and Cherish

I wrote about failing miserably to come up with any non-fiction titles translated from Germany. So here's an attempt to make up for that with a small selection of recent titles. The list is fairly random, I'm afraid. It also consists mainly of books on German history and culture - which reflects what gets translated.

You could start with Stefan Aust's revised Baader-Meinhof. The inside story of the RAF, trans. Anthea Bell. It does what it say on the tin really. The book made a huge mark on German society when it first came out in the 1980s, and now includes new material from Stasi files, etc.

Aust knew some of those involved in the RAF through his work as a journalist, but for a more academic look at German history, you might look to Götz Aly. You can choose from Hitler's Beneficiaries (trans. Jefferson Chase), Fromms. How Julius Fromm's Condom Empire Fell to the Nazis (trans. Shelley Frisch), or how about Into the Tunnel. The Brief Life of Marion Samuel, 1931-1943 (trans. Ann Millin). Or wait for his highly controversial take on how the 68ers weren't as free from totalitarianism as they liked to think, Unser Kampf - although it could be a long wait...

On the subject of controversy, why not look out for Jörg Friedrich's The Fire. The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945 (trans. Allison Brown). Apparently it's very good for low blood pressure. To calm you down again, try a more light-hearted read: Hape Kerkeling's I'm Off Then, about his pilgrimage across the Pyrenees and translated again by the very busy and very delightful Shelley Frisch.

In a more literary vein, keep an eye out from January for Michael Maar's Speak, Nabokov (trans. Ross Benjamin), apparently "a vital new perspective". You can also get Maar's The Two Lolitas (trans. Perry Anderson) and Bluebeard's Chamber (trans. David Fernbach) on Thomas Mann.

Now if you happen to be a publisher thinking, hmmm, what a lot of fine non-fiction is coming out of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, there's a chance for you too to get a cut-price ticket for the bandwaggon. The initiative Geisteswissensachaften International provides funding for translations of humanities titles into English. Hooray!

1 comment:

Meike Ziervogel said...

Another wonderful, very readable German non-fiction writer is Brigitte Hamann. She has been translated into English: "Hitler's Vienna" and "Winifred Wagner: A Life a the Heart of Hitler's Beyreuth".