Friday, 18 December 2009

Translate This German Book!

Impressed and inspired by The Quarterly Conversation's Translate This Book! list and prompted by David of Dialog International, I want to start the ball rolling on a list of German, Austrian and Swiss books simply begging to be translated.

Please feel free - no, feel obliged - to add your own suggestions in the comments section, and I'll write them up at a later date.

My number one (and I've said it before) is Selim Özdogan's tale of growing up in Turkey, Die Tochter des Schmieds. Part two of a possible trilogy is in the pipeline as we speak.

Also Clemens Meyer's debut novel Als wir träumten, more growing up but this time in Leipzig before and after 1989. A tad too long but oh, how it's worth it. His next book, a diary of the past year, comes out in March.

Sticking to that growing up thing, the world is missing out on Michael Wildenhain's Russisch Brot, an East-West Berlin story with mysterious things going on in the family.

A very obvious one but the rights haven't yet been sold as far as I'm aware: Kathrin Schmidt's Du stirbst nicht, which deservedly won the German Book Prize in October.

Plus I also loved Norbert Zähringer's fun-but-serious blockbuster literary adventure Einer von vielen.

More as and when they occur to me. And to you.

9 comments:

David said...

Wow, where to start?

I don't believe any winners of the Alfred Doeblin Preis have been translated into English, with the exception of Ingo Schulze.

Walter Kempowski's seminal "Das Echolot" is crying out to be translated.

Going back a bit in time, I'm not sure ir Elisabeth Langgässer's masterpiece "Das unauslöschliche Siegel" was ever translated. Or if it was, all copies have vanished. This was one of the very first important postwar novels in German to appear. And while we're at it, we might as well translate her earlier "Der Gang duch das Ried".

And going even further back in history, hardly any of the novels published in Germany during the NS-period - including novels of the "innere Emigration" - have been translated. We might want to start with Friedrich Reck-Malleczewn's "Bockelson. Geschichte eies Massenwahns" a historical novel of resistance.

Now, if only we could find a good German to English translator. :)

schultzie said...

I thought Katja Lange-Müller's Böse Schafe was amazing. The narrator looks back on her relationship with a guy after finding a diary of sorts that he'd kept during it - the shock to her being that she is never mentioned in it, and so she goes back and tries to tell the story, filling in the gaps. It's beautifully written and covers the 80s through to the early 90s from the perspective of the poorer classes (though not explicitly about the poor - it's sought of something that you just pick up on from the setting and odd quirks of behaviour).

kjd said...

@Schultzie: Yes! I'd been deliberating about including that one too. I'm very impressed by her writing in general.

@David. Thanks for your very different perspective. Langgässer would be too Catholic for my taste, but kudos for the Alfred Döblin Prize suggestion: it's a veritable goldmine of literary talent:
de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred-Döblin-Preis

schultzie said...

I bought her other books on Amazon the other week and hope to read them before the end of 2010 - I hope to finish the last third of Buddenbrooks first, and then there's Schulze's Adam und Evelyn, and ...

As an aside: as a way to improve my German I've been having a go at translating a recent novel over the past year. I really appreciate now the sheer energy that goes into a good translation - and going through my first draft and typing it up, as I have been over the past couple of weeks, I can really see the points at which my concentration was slipping, not to mention the mangling of English from being too deep in the German. The process has actually made me think more deeply about the English language and also about what constitutes a 'difficult' book (Buddenbrooks has fuelled that one, too) and the notion of translatability (the book I chose has some interesting problems in this area).

teacher said...

I'm waiting for Herta Müller's novel! I heard that Philip Boehm will tackle 'Everything...' and 'La piel del zorro' (in spanish), but that's not happening soon...

kjd said...

And elsewhere, someone has made a plea for Friedrich Ani to be translated. Must get round to reading him...

schultzie said...

Of other recent novels I'd add Alina Bronsky's Scherbenpark (though I think I saw somewhere recently that someone had bought the rights) - the heroine is one of those that you can't help falling in love with despite what they do, like Jane Austen's Emma. The ending seemed a bit to quick for me - reminded me a bit of The Magic Mountain's ending in its treatment.

I think it's easier to list the books that shouldn't be translated! Of recent ones I'd include Heinz Strunk's Die Zunge Europas. It reminded me a lot of James Joyce's Ulysses (whose structure it partly mimics) in that in parts the writing is brilliant, but whereas Ulysses lost itself on its dull experimental patches, DZE loses on its ending which is not so much a resolution as a big fat disappointment. One expects the hero to grow up, to develop, but instead he regresses and becomes more of a teenage boy - 'resolving' his issues with getting older by dumping his longtime girlfriend!

Hans Pleschinki's Ludwigshöhe is long and messy with too many important loose ends that aren't resolved. The idea is interesting and the approach starts off well, but the implications don't appear to have been fully thought through - ie what happens to the dead bodies??

Gregor Sander's Abwesend is another getting older novel (all of the German novels I read last year were about late-30s/early-40s characters (I read Scherbenpark in 2008) - this wasn't intentional, but maybe there's something in that?) It's sort of a coming-to-terms novel - partly with the GDR and partly with the hero's father - and is well written, but just doesn't seem worthy to me. It's not what I'd call an important book - a book that changes the reader's persepctives or really makes them think.

Happy new year from New Zealand!

kjd said...

Thanks Schultzie! You're right, Scherbenpark is coming out in Tim Mohr's translation in April.

A belated Happy New Year to you too.

schultzie said...

I just read Andrea Winkler's Hanna und Ich. Wow, this has to be translated - though it's impossible to describe. The feel of it I'd describe as sort of an everyday kafkaesque...