I don’t much care for best book lists, partly because I don’t ever feel like singling out five or ten books from one particular year. But I’m feeling rather pressurised by the fact that everyone else in the whole world is writing them. So I’ve found a way out, which is a slightly random list of things I thought were extremely good in 2011. In the world of German books, I mean. So here I am in my sparkly dress, slightly tipsy on champagne and teetering down the runway in my highest of heels to present to you - the Amazing Love German Books Awards 2011!
Best New Publisher
That has to be the fantabulous And Other Stories. 2011 was their launch year and they published four books, including (ahem) my translation of Clemens Meyer’s short stories, All The Lights. They took Clemens and me on tour of the UK along with the lovely Juan Pablo Villalobos and his talented translator Rosalind Harvey. And Juan Pablo’s short novel Down The Rabbit Hole was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award – the only translation on the shortlist. Check out their website to see how you could get involved too.
Best Old Publisher
Seagull Books for continuing their German and Swiss lists with a plethora of beautifully designed books. They’re also setting up a publishing school in Calcutta, they run a gallery and events series, and are all-round lovely people. The booth to be at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.
Best German Publisher
This is a tough one because there are quite a few German publishers I think do really great stuff. But at the end of the day it has to be Schöffling & Co. – because they publish only good fiction and poetry and no bumpf to keep the quality stuff afloat. And also because if there’s one beard I approve of (apart from my father’s) then it’s Klaus Schöffling’s beard. If you want to grow a beard, grow a three-foot-long flowing white one.
Best Publishing Party
I did actually attend a couple of publishing parties this year, the kind with free food and drink and standing around making small-talk until everyone feels drunk enough to crack a smile, by which time I usually have to go home. Best though was the Party der Jungen Verlage at the Leipzig Book Fair. Easily the best party in German publishing because all the cool people go there and actually dance. And the location is a disused post office with all sorts of dark and dingy corners. Plus you don’t need an invite so I can go along. Also I was a bit mean about the rather less good indie publishers’ party at the Frankfurt Book Fair, so this is to remind everyone that they can do it really well sometimes.
Best Publicity Campaign
Has to be for Simon Urban’s Plan D. OK, the writer works in advertising so he has a head start, but the novel has its own cheesy pop song, its own car model and its own brand of lemonade. Go to the beautifully designed website to check it all out – hours of fun: www.simonurban.de
Best-Dressed German Writers
Tough, particularly among the ladies. But not that tough actually, because two outfits stole the show – Annika Scheffel for a gorgeous black (wool?) dress with a thin red belt and nice shoes, and Jan Brandt for a Mark Ronson-style not quite Butlin's-red suit combined with a thin black tie. I can see a pattern emerging here.
Best Blog Initiative
How can I not bow down in awe to the glory that was German Literature Month, hosted by Caroline and Lizzy? An astounding 121 German-language books reviewed on a whole host of different blogs during November. Ladies, I salute you!
Best Translation Initiative
The new translators-in-residence programme at London's Free Word Centre, where the lovely Rosalind Harvey (see above) and Nicky Harman thought up all sorts of off-the-wall-out-of-the-box activities to bring translation out of its ghetto. More please!
Best love german books Post
Because hey, no one else is going to give me a prize – my favourite blog post of my own for 2011 was my investigative report on the relative merits of the e-book and print versions for capturing male attention on public transport. http://lovegermanbooks.blogspot.com/2011/05/ereader-sex-appeal.html