Saturday, 2 January 2010


What does 2010 hold in store for German book-lovers? Klairvoyant Katy divides the mists of time and reveals the joys to come over the next twelve months.*

Books about the provinces: Yes, it's official. After novels set in sleepy villages (and Stuttgart) vied for space on the German Book Prize longlist, a new trend is officially born. Sadly, that means Berlin novels are now about as out as spangly flares. If a book has to be set in Berlin, it'll definitely feature other, more provincial places, like Frankfurt Oder in Inger-Maria Mahlke's forthcoming debut.

Books about abroad: Bulgaria (and Stuttgart) took the Leipzig Book Fair Prize in the form of Sibylle Lewitscharoff's Apostoloff, America took the indie prize in Alexander Schimmelbusch's Blut im Wasser, Henning Kober's debut Unter diesem Einfluss took us halfway around the world. Those German writers are making the most of the generous funding system for living in exotic locations and actually setting their books there. Another nail in the coffin of the Berlin novel.

Books about mental health issues: 2009 was the year of physical disease and disorder in German fiction and non-fiction, with all those books I didn't read about cancer, plus Kathrin Schmidt's slightly more upbeat Du stirbst nicht, where we learnt all about linguistic rehab. This year, writers will be checking themselves out of Oncology and into the psychiatric ward. Clemens Meyer touches on the subject in his forthcoming diary Gewalten, and newcomer Helene Hegemann spills her guts in her debut with the memorable name of Axolotl Roadkill.

Books about history: Not a new phenomenon as such, but a lot of literary types seem to have discovered the genre of imaginative historical fiction. Last year saw Daniela Dröscher's excellent debut Die Lichter des George Psalmanazar, a hugely enjoyable look at 18th-century Britain prominently featuring Samuel Johnson. And two Berlin writers, Jan Groh and Thomas Weiss, are working on novels about anarchists in the Spanish civil war and an early-20th-century executioner, respecively.

Books about rich people: Poor people are so out. Who wants poor but sexy when you can have rich and sexy? Certainly not Schimmelbusch, Kober, Hegemann - or Kristof Magnusson, whose Das war ich nicht involves a banker, a top writer and a literary translator (and we all know how stinking rich they are).

Berlin: No, not books about Berlin, just Berlin itself. Monday sees Suhrkamp Verlag moving to Berlin, Blumenbar's aready here, lots of new people and events and stuff. With a few select British and American literary types now based here too, let's hope the buzz spreads far enough to prompt a couple more - gasp! - translations.

*No guarantee for accuracy of predictions. Should predictions prove incorrect, Klairvoyant Katy will deny any knowledge and delete them from her blog. Should predictions prove correct, Klairvoyant Katy will crow loudly about her literary foresight at any and every opportunity.

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