So the competition's over and I've almost recovered. The top prize in Klagenfurt went to Maja Haderlap for her "Im Kessel" (Encircled). Like last year, the judges chose the text that was most difficult to translate, although according to the official website there was some dissent. And as some critics have pointed out (see Buchreport), this year's winner was another childhood recollection by a more mature writer than the average in the contest, like Peter Wawerzinek's winning text in 2010.
The Kelag Prize went to Steffen Popp for "Spur einer Dorfgeschichte" (Traces of a Village Story), another linguistically challenging piece. Next came Nina Bußmann ("Große Ferien"/Long Holidays) followed by Leif Randt ("Schimmernder Dunst über CobyCounty"/The Haze over Coby County). The audience award went to Thomas Klupp, unsurprisingly, for his entertaining "9to5 Hardcore".
Do I sound a bit miffed? Had I been on the jury I'd have chosen different winners, certainly. But the pattern I've noticed is this - as a translator, I have very different expectations or requirements of a text to German critics. For me it has to work in English, and that means it has to deal with a subject of interest outside the German-speaking world in a way that we can relate to. And it has to be - no, not easy to translate, but it has to be a text that doesn't positively resist translation. If it uses fragments of nursery rhymes or regional dialect, for example, those are inevitably going to be lost not in the translation itself, because we can replace them or transpose them or find some way of dealing with them, but in the reception. The text will be a different one (as is always the case in translation, obviously enough) with a very different effect on the reader.
I shall take these thoughts away with me and mull them over. Haderlap's novel Engel des Vergessens (Angels of Forgetting) is released today.