Monday, 28 February 2011

Berlin Verlag Founder Leaves

The Bookseller reported not long ago that the British publishers Bloomsbury will be adopting a "global structure" - effectively operating everything out of London: "four basic divisions of adult; children’s and educational; academic and professional; and information and business development," supported by "a sales, marketing and rights division, and a production division." All in London. All run by Brits.

The official reasoning is that they consider taste is becoming globally homogenized, especially in fiction. And the Bookseller piece gives three examples, all of which were written in English. Unsurprisingly. All very well; these people are running a business after all. Whether English books are published out of London or New York is perhaps largely unimportant nowadays - although I would expect there to be differences in the marketing, and I would think American editors might have a better feel for what US readers like. So no doubt jobs will go, which is sad but not unusual, but at least that great overarching value, literature, won't suffer all that much.

Except for one thing: they also happen to own the Berlin Verlag. As Gregor Dotzauer points out in the Tagesspiegel, Berlin Verlag is nominated for three awards this year at the Leipzig Book Fair. With three titles that would almost certainly not have come about under this "global structure". A German novel, a German literary non-fiction title and a translation of Peter Esterházy. Bloomsbury does not publish Peter Esterházy in English. Nor does it publish Berlin Verlag's biggest German authors, Ingo Schulze and Elke Schmitter. In fact, while Bloomsbury does some very fine books, I'd wager that next to none of them are translated from German. Which is up to them and certainly not an unusual phenomenon, but you'd think they might take advantage of the little jewel they have in the Berlin Verlag.

The people in Berlin have a genuinely excellent children's book list, some outstanding German writers (Anna Katharina Fröhlich and Henning Ritter are the Leipzig nominees, plus Rada Biller, Keto von Waberer, Jan Peter Bremer and a whole slew of young talents like Thomas Klupp, Daniela Dröscher, Leif Rand). They even put out the occasional poetry collection (Jan Wagner, Ron Winkler, Björn Kuhligk, Gerhard Falkner). The publisher Elisabeth Ruge recently set up Berlin Academic, "with special focus on digital developments and Open Access". And of course they publish translations of Bloomsbury writers like Margaret Atwood, Tobias Wolff and William Boyd, to name but three from the first page of their catalogue.

So the relationship has been in one direction all along, but now Berlin seems to have lost all independence. The company's founder Elisabeth Ruge is clearing her desk and leaving as of 15 March. And who can blame her? I can't read between the lines of all the press releases very well and have no internal insight whatsoever, but even I can see things don't bode well for a German publisher if it's being run from London.

Frankly, I resent the idea that literary taste is globally homogenous, and I don't want to read one-size-fits-all fiction. Some of the strengths of Berlin Verlag in recent years have been discovering new German voices that go against the grain, fostering unusual talent and organising great events in Berlin. So this is, without exaggeration, very bad news for German book-lovers.

Update: Richard Kämmerlings tells us in Die Welt (which I tend not to read because the opinion pieces get me too upset) that Birgit Schmitz is taking over from Ruge. According to Schmitz, who is about my age, the German book market is so different to the British market that she'll have to maintain "a certain amount of autonomy". And she apparently intends to make her mark on the catalogue. Good on her - I suspect it's her doing that Berlin Verlag has so many good young writers right now - but I'm not optimistic.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Dancing the Sarrazin

My head's still humming from last night's huge launch for the anthology Manifest der Vielen. I don't know about you, but typically I expect a book launch to be about twenty people sipping at white wine in a bookshop while a writer sits at the front and reads a bit. Instead, last night every last seat in the Maxim Gorki Theater was occupied, eight people read, three people were interviewed, there was a dancer and a slide show and live electronic music and a music video (which I'll come back to in a moment). There followed copious drinking and - yes! - actual dancing.

The book, which I've been bigging up for a while now, is a collection of pieces written by - as it says in this fascinating interview with the editor Hilal Sezgin - thirty German intellectuals with international backgrounds, in response to Thilo Sarrazin's mega-selling book Deutschland schafft sich ab. Its subtitle is "Germany reinvents itself". I haven't actually got a copy yet because of cashflow issues last night, but judging by the readings it covers a lot of ground. From Deniz Utlu's fiction to an interview with the actress Pegah Ferydoni to straight personal essays, the writers share their views on multicultural Germany, being a Muslim or not being a Muslim in the country, and just generally how they live their lives.

Not all of it was new - people have been saying for years now that the never-ending calls for integration are offensive and unreasonable, that they are essentially a demand for a homogenous society - but it's good to say it again. Several of the authors talked about how the debate has forced them to think about their own position in German society, how they define themselves. And in fact the event made me start thinking along the same lines, something I hope to come back to here.

But what was most unexpected about the event was that it was genuinely funny. A number of the writers have contributed humorous pieces, laughing rather than crying over what is often a ridiculous situation. And it was all held together by a really funny guy called Ali Aslan. I had to check that because he didn't introduce himself on stage and when I asked someone later she said, "Oh, you mean Ali?" Which was of limited use. Anyway, speaking of unexpected things, the guy is apparently known as the George Clooney of the German interior ministry. I couldn't see the resemblance, but then I was a very long way from the stage and when I saw him close-up later I was far from sober. Anyway, Aslan managed to get a lot of laughs out of some pretty serious subject matter, including the fact that one of the authors - the academic Naika Foroutan from the Heymat project - has received death threats for her part in revealing Sarrazin's misinterpretation of the statistics.

So, thus heartened, we all retired to the bar. Or in fact the canteen, where there was wine and beer and pretzels and rice pudding. And DJ Imran Ayata in the corner, who was having technical problems. But still, the beautiful people danced and danced - my favourite was a version of Oh Carolina in some unrecognisable language. And there were lots of sort of famous people there and I said hello to two of them and one of them even recognised me back.

And here's the most amazing thing I noticed. On one point, Sarrazin is right. A survey by the Süddeutsche Zeitung found out all sorts of interesting things about his readers. My favourite one: they responded negatively to the idea of "enjoying life to the full". Also, they're mainly men and the over-60s are overproportionately represented. So in fact, Sarrazin readers probably are having fewer babies than Manifest der Vielen readers. Because Manifest der Vielen readers are all very, very attractive and enjoy life to the full. Manifest der Vielen readers will reinvent Germany, populating it with attractive, intelligent, fun-loving little brown babies.

To finish off, a link to the video, a song by Volkan T. that plays on a text by Selim Özdogan.

More Culture Funding, Please.

The European Union has a small programme that funds the arts and culture. Right now, national governments and EU policymakers are taking decisions on the next EU budget that will influence the next ten years of support to cultural activities. I'm a firm believer in state funding for the arts - it ensures that artists don't have to serve the market all the time and have space to experiment without starving to death in their garrets. And it benefits the rest of society as well by, you know, making the world a better place.

If you'd like to exert a little pressure on policymakers, you can sign a short manifesto written by Culture Action Europe at:

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Sarrazin, Broder and British Debating Culture

I have never been a great fan of the British university debating club. The one at my university attempted to invite Enoch Powell to speak to students, back in the early 90s. As I recall, it was a small group of ex-public school pupils with pretensions to the Conservative back-benches. I see they are still going strong, in fact, with a debate tabled for March with the title "This house believes that it is time to close the borders to economic migrants." The idea is that two people say very contentious things to each other in a witty manner, while students watch for cheap entertainment. A centuries-old tradition, free speech, fostering public speaking skills, bla bla bla. Not to my taste at all, as there are things that I consider too important to reduce them to their mere intellectual entertainment value. But at the very least, there are some kind of rules of balance that are intended to ensure a fair debate.

So students at London's LSE were not only dismayed to see that the German Society had invited everybody's favourite German racist Thilo Sarrazin to an event. They had also failed to find anyone to stand up to him on equal terms. Alongside Sarrazin on the platform was Henryk M. Broder, not a man known for airing his views on Islam in particular in an unprovocative manner. The students felt that the "contra" side was too weak, with the critic Hellmuth Karasek and Ali Kizilkaya, Chairman of the German Islamic Council, who "may very well speak for his religious community but cannot be expected to represent the great diversity of German immigrants and their children." They wrote an open letter to the German Society from which this quote is taken. Their campaign was picked up by the press and anti-racism activists, whereupon the event was moved from the LSE itself to a nearby hotel.

There have been some amusing accounts of the ensuing events in the German press, the best of which is in the Tagesspiegel (although they seem confused about the demands of the open letter). As it turns out, not even Karasek argued against the anti-Islam front. The event was topped off by an exchange in which Broder called a student who mounted the stage an
unmoderate double huge arsehole. And Der Freitag has a few words from one of the organisers of the open letter (my translation):

As a former colonial power, Britain has a much longer and more intensive history of integration. The majority of the guests at the Hilton had therefore noticed that "there was something very dodgy about Sarrazin." Compared to the quality of the British discussion, the London audience will have seen Sarrazin and Broder and presumably also Karasek as provincials at best. Sarrazin, says Fathollah-Nejad, "hardly got any applause anyway."

Back in January, it was another venerable British institution that first gave Sarrazin a platform in the English-speaking world. As Spiegel Online reported, he was invited onto the "discussion programme" World Have Your Say on the BBC World Service. Here's what they said:

For 50 minutes, Sarrazin -- whose book has been at the top of Germany's bestseller lists for weeks -- held forth on his opinions about Muslims. He discussed his book with callers from Great Britain, Germany, the United States and elsewhere in the world -- and didn't seem concerned that his ideas sound even crasser in English than they do in German.

Again, the format was part of the problem here. While most of the callers were apparently critical of his ideas, Sarrazin was in the studio as the main guest and therefore automatically in a privileged position to state his views. Sarrazin was presented as the expert while the people
countering (or indeed supporting) his arguments were presented as laymen. He also had more airtime than any other individual. Hardly a triumph of fair debate, no matter how crudely he came across.

Now just to get my position clear, I would rather nobody offered Sarrazin a public platform for his unscientific and plainly racist views. However, for a country that is so proud of its tradition of fair debate, these two events are an absolute embarrassment.

I'm looking forward to Thursday's launch of the Manifest der Vielen in Berlin - a collection of pieces by the very people Sarrazin dumps on in his mega-selling book. Because when the other side doesn't play fair, why should we bother? Dance the Sarrazin!

Update: my friend Karen Margolis sent me a link to an FAZ article by two of the signatories. Maria Exner and Max Neufeind are rightly annoyed at the German press coverage claiming they wanted to have the event banned, and the way Broder is treated as a harmless clown.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Clemens Meyer, All the Lights

The fine upstanding people of And Other Stories have announced it in their newsletter, so I don't have to keep it to myself any longer. I've been biting my tongue for weeks and weeks now, so here goes - I'm currently translating Clemens Meyer's second book for them, Die Nacht, die Lichter. It's a collection of excellent short stories that won the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair when it came out in 2008. I sincerely think it's some of the very best German writing around, and I'm not just saying that because Meyer took me to the races last summer.

Translating the stories is tricky but incredibly rewarding. At times I find myself gazing into space, marvelling at how good they are and how lucky I am to be working on them. But most of the time they suck me in and make me frown in concentration, suspending real life all around me. I have to stay at home to work on them rather than translating in my office where there are other people present, partly because the work is quite draining. And it actually helps sometimes if I have a slight hangover.

The book should be out in the autumn of this year. If you can't wait (and who can blame you), there are two stories published online, at The Guardian and Brooklyn Rail.

We're changing the title slightly, because the literal translation, ummm, rhymes. And while And Other Stories are pretty damn daring publishing translated short stories (not a terribly fashionable thing to do), even they don't want to go as far as launching a book on the British public with a rhyming title.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Asymptote Journal

A kind reader pointed me in the direction of a new online international journal on literary translation and contemporary writing, by the name of Asymptote. The first issue showcases poetry, prose and non-fiction from a very wide range of languages, plus a translator interview and feature articles. Thomas Bernhard fans will be pleased to see an extract from - well, what exactly? I assume Prose, published by Seagull Books - translated by Martin Chalmers.

It looks like it should be a very interesting resource, using different media. Despite including the term 'smorgasbord of languages'.

Friday, 18 February 2011

DIY Anti-Nuclear Litfest in Hamburg

Sponsoring is a tricky subject. There's only so much you can organise without paying people, and corporate sponsoring can be one way to pay writers and employees at literary festivals. Or indeed to pay award-winners a sum of money, as with the Best Translated Book Award, which is underwritten by Amazon. In this case, the sponsor gets the tax benefits, the feeling of supporting international literature above and beyond their own efforts, and the positive publicity. Plus of course the negative publicity after Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson called for a boycott.

In Hamburg, people are angry about the energy giant Vattenfall's sponsoring of a local literary festival. A group of activists, writers, publishers, translators and other cultural bods came up with the idea of staging their own alternative festival. Here's part of their original statement (in my translation):

We have nothing against reading festivals. We have no desire to demonise a well organised literary festival simply because the organisers are trying to cover the costs with sponsoring. That is not the case here, though. In 2006 Vattenfall took over as sponsor of the "Hamburger Lesetage" (...). As is now unfortunately all too common in the field of sponsoring, the energy conglomerate is no longer presenting itself as a mere supporter of the literary event. Instead, the company holds the rights to the name and is allowed to call itself the "initiator, sponsor and organiser", thereby branding itself as culturally affine, as it is known nowadays. So that it does not blend into the background, since 2010 every writer is looked after by a "Vattenfall mentor" – a company employee who "introduces the author to the audience". The aim is for the company name and the cultural event to meld into a single brand – and the media are going along with it all too willingly: we can read the name "Vattenfall Lesetage" all over the place. We are supposed to link the event with the name of the company as often as possible and without even thinking. Vattenfall, Vattenfall, Vattenfall.

Said company is currently in the process of re-opening a dodgy nuclear power station and is a major player in the German nuclear power lobby.

So, the good people of Hamburg are organising readings during the same week as the corporate festival - with a number of interesting people on the bill - and encouraging people to change their electricity company at the same time. All under the name of "Lesetage selber machen - Vattenfall Tschüss sagen" (DIY Litfest - Say Bye Bye to Vattenfall). I like it.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Triple the Fun

I shall be making good use of my magic carpet* on Wednesday, 2 March. Because there are three readings I want to go to that day (so far) and two of them are in London.

I shall start with Julya Rabinovich reading from her fresh novel Splithead (trans. Tess Lewis) and Jenny Erpenbeck at the Royal National Hotel in London, at 1 pm. Then I'll have a bite to eat and pop back to the hotel for Johanna Adorján, reading from An Exclusive Love (trans. Anthea Bell, picture of rose petals on the cover) at 5.30 - both part of Jewish Book Week.

From there I'll whizz over to Berlin's Festsaal Kreuzberg for Selim Özdogan, who's launching his long-awaited follow-up to Die Tochter des Schmieds, Heimstraße 52. Please ignore the picture of the orange on the cover - the novel has nothing to do with fruit. But the citrus thing does have the advantage of freeing book buyers from pronouncing Özdogan's difficult name (approximately: ers-de-wan), as they can simply go into a shop and ask for "that book with the orange on the cover". Cleverly enough, his publishers are re-releasing the previous novel in the trilogy with a picture of a fig on it. No doubt part three will feature a watermelon.

I may have mentioned it in the past, but just in case you weren't listening - a Selim Özdogan reading is always an extraordinary event. Selim is a fabulous entertainer and usually reads a cross-section of his writing, from novels to short stories to poetry, with the odd snippet thrown in that he finds along the way. You should definitely go along if he reads in your town.

*Magic carpet available for hire, prices on request.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

An Exophonic Surprise

Now here's a thing: I'm reading this nice piece on the Guardian blog about writers who write in a second language by the writer Dan Vyleta. Some interesting titles including two German books by Emine Sevgi Özdamar and Adelbert Chamisso. And then I thought, gosh, Dan Vyleta sounds like a pretty interesting guy, doesn't he? A historian who grew up in Germany, Czech parents, university in the UK and now he lives in Canada. I wonder what books he's written?

Turns out there are two: Pavel and I and The Quiet Twin. Literary thrillers (?) set in post-war Berlin and 1939 Vienna, respectively. So I'm sitting here wondering away idly while I ought to be doing something else, when I realised two things. Firstly, these are German books, except they're written in English so according to my personal rules they're English books. And secondly, I know his wife! They used to live in Berlin and she's the fantastic translator Chantal Wright! Hi Chantal, if you're reading this! So I have actually met Dan Vyleta and have some of his discarded books on my shelves (including one Far Side volume, I believe, which he was a bit embarrassed at possessing).

So if you're a fan of German books and dark historical material, I'd say Dan Vyleta is a pretty good bet. Mind you, I wouldn't want to be his German translator, Werner Löcher-Lawrence. Imagine translating someone back into their native language - who happens to be married to a translator.

On the subject of exophonic writers from the German-speaking world, you can read an interesting interview with Swiss author Zoe Jenny at New Books in German. Her first book written in English is The Sky Is Changing.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

New Judges - But No Booksellers

I know I've been amiss recently on the posting front. There's been no real reason I can think of, except for life in general. I shall try harder though. Perhaps there's a certain element of apathy in the face of the repetitive nature of the German book world. You know, books come out, people review them, people buy them and read them, then put them on their shelves, more books come out, more reviews, etc. pp.

Thank goodness for prizes, then! A welcome ray of pretend glamour in the humdrum life of a literary blogger. And today the Giant Haystacks of German book awards, the German Book Prize, announced its new jury. Studded with literary stars, it is: critics Maike Albath (who once won an award for being nice to translators) and Gregor Dotzauer, top poet/prose writer Ulrike Draesner, Goethe Institut man who once sent me an email Clemens-Peter Haase, my favourite ever German critic Ina Hartwig, radio and TV journalist Christine Westermann and Focus magazine man and Kehlmann fan Uwe Wittstock.

But as trade mag Buchreport points out, this year there's no bookseller among the judges. Apparently nobody volunteered because they'd have to read too many books. Now had they asked me (and offered me a significant sum of money), I would have willingly sacrificed my time as the voice of the reading public. But no. They'll just have to put up with this raggle-taggle band of talented and award-winning literary experts.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Misguided World Book Night? Misnomer, More Like

At the Guardian, Benedicte Page reports on the objections against World Book Night from some independent booksellers and writers. The plan is to give away a million books across the UK and Ireland on 5 March. Selected readers can collect 48 books each from local libraries and bookshops and pass them on, ideally to people who wouldn't normally read. And now some people are objecting by saying that the scheme devalues books as a cultural commodity.

My two cents on this subject: Since when did giving away free samples make things seem less attractive? Don't you love it when you get a little sample of perfume in your carrier bag or a free shot at a bar? Remember those poor students in stupid clothing who gave away free cigarettes to drunk people in pubs in the 90s? And think of the recent horror over cuts to the UK's excellent Bookstart programme to get kids reading. Like many well-meaning campaigns, this one probably has a few glitches - which I'll come to in a moment - but I hardly think the UK publishing and bookselling industry is shooting itself in the foot by celebrating reading in this way.

So now I come to the glitches. The first, for me, is a structural issue. How the hell is anyone supposed to transport 48 books without a car? So I'm assuming that the "givers" in the programme will indeed be "nice bookish people" - aka middle-class car-owners - as an anonymous bookseller criticised.

The second is a personal grudge. Why bother calling the dang thing World Book Night if it's only happening in the UK and Ireland - and there are only two translated books on the list of 25 to be given away? Now, I can see that they've tried to take me personally into account by kindly including a German book, but unfortunately it's All Quiet on the Western Front, which is the kind of thing my grandad used to read. Yes, I know it's a classic piece of pacifist literature burned by the Nazis. Yes, I'm sure many grumpy old men* will enjoy reading it. And yes, I know they wanted a broad selection of titles with mass appeal. I don't have to like it though, do I?

Sheesh. Next year, I expect them to take me and a number of other highly informed international lit bloggers on as paid consultants. Or otherwise rename the event. UK and Ireland Heavily Slewed to English Book Night ought to do the trick.

*Not that my grandad was particularly grumpy.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Leipzig Book Fair Prize Shortlists Announced

Germany's most important literary award of the spring, the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair, kicks off for real today with the release of the shortlists (sorry about the hyperbole, I've been editing a real estate magazine).

Five fiction titles* are up there, none of which I have read:

Anna Katharina Fröhlich: Kream Korner (Berlin Verlag)
(German women having adventures in India)

Arno Geiger: Der alte König in seinem Exil (Hanser)
(About his senile father)

Wolfgang Herrndorf: Tschick (Rowohlt Berlin)
(The coming-of-age road novel everybody's loving)

Clemens J. Setz: Die Liebe zur Zeit des Mahlstädter Kindes (Suhrkamp)
(Short stories, not out until mid-March)

Peter Stamm: Seerücken (Fischer)
(More short stories out in March)

You can listen to samples from the shortlisted titles at Literaturport (not up quite yet, but no doubt very soon indeed).

And you can also look at the shortlists for the translation and non-fiction categories on the prize website. Nominees include the writer Terezia Mora for an Esterhazy translation and Karen Duve for her Anständig essen, which I've written about here.

The three prizes are awarded at the Leipzig Book Fair on 17 March. And you can vote for your favourite here. Not that it will have any effect on the judges' decision whatsoever, but hey, maybe you like ticking boxes.

*A brief note on the links I've provided: They're all to publishers' websites, and unfortunately all in German. Although German publishers are getting better at promoting their titles in English, the latest trend seems to be a flashy PDF version of their catalogues, which is no doubt aesthetically pleasing but not much use for my purposes. Sadly, the publishing world does not revolve around my personal needs.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Visitation for Miss Universe

I was asked to share with the readers of Three Percent why a certain book ought to win the Best Translated Book Award.

So I did.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Rauris Literature Prize to Dorothee Elmiger

The Rauris Literature Prize is awarded by a particularly literary Austrian village, and goes to the best prose debut of the year written in German. Past winners you might have heard of include Juli Zeh, Peter Stamm, Thomas Lehr, Kristof Magnusson - oh, and Herta Müller.

This year, the €8000 prize money goes to the delightful and lovely Dorothee Elmiger. Who has actually graced my very own sofa - because I'm translating her gorgeous debut novel Einladung an die Waghalsigen (Invitation to the Bold of Heart). As we speak, so to speak. The jury (one vote each from Germany, Austria and Switzerland) called the book "a text of linguistic and formal challenges that maintains its tension after reading." If you ask me though, it's a blooming fantastic read that really draws you in and keeps you puzzling and drawing parallels for weeks on end.

You can catch Dorothee live in NYC and New Haven at the Festival Neue Literatur* this week.

*Note to German grammar nerds: No, I've no idea what they're doing here either.

Saturday, 5 February 2011


Berlin is famous for being a bit of a scruffy kind of place. A city where you can venture out to the shops with your pyjamas under your coat and no make-up on, and nobody will look askance. There's a good side to that - there are times when you just really need caffeine and there's no time to take a shower and wash and blow-dry and apply lip gloss. But then there's a bad side as well, which is that when you do want to dress up you tend to stand out like a sore thumb - an utterly gorgeous and glamorous sore thumb, but an injured digit nonetheless.

So I enjoy the occasional foray into distant territory - and on Thursday that was Hamburg! Home of the wondrous festival by the slightly embarrassing name of Ham.Lit. Or as they put it, a concentrated shot of the most exciting young German literature and music right now, on one night and under one roof. Fifteen "young" writers and two sets of music. What better opportunity, I asked myself, to get totally glammed up with my Hamburg girlfriends Isa and the West-Eastern Diva? So there we all were, the belles of the ballroom, only of course we'd forgotten that the place is completely underlit. So our pulchritude went unnoticed.

No matter. For in the dark cavern of a former WWII bunker, we saw some great readings. My personal line-up went like this: Mariana Leky (read beautifully despite a bad back and a rather strenuous moderator), Kathrin Seddig (my absolute highlight; I shall be reading her book Runterkommen), Peggy Mädler (who did very well for what was apparently her first reading, and did rather intrigue me), Hannes Köhler (distracting facial hair, nice piece of writing set in Berlin), and then a guy called Tino Hanekamp. Tino Hanekamp kindly stepped in at the last minute because someone else was ill. And he's also got a book coming out soon.
There are times when I say, "Believe the hype!" This is not one of them. But at least it gave us all something to bitch about afterwards. I'm told Thomas Pletzinger and Jochen Schmidt were excellent too.

Then there was music, of the listen carefully to the lyrics kind. Sadly, I don't like listening carefully to lyrics, so we went somewhere else where people appreciated our fabulous get-up.

Ham.Lit is a great little festival, very tightly organised and with an excellent selection of writers to choose from. If you're interested in emerging German writers, it's a perfect opportunity to get a taste of the latest stuff on offer. But don't worry about what you wear - pyjamas under your coat will do just fine.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Bloggo ergo sum

I shall be holding a workshop on blogging for literary translators, at this year's Wolfenbüttel get-together of the German translators' association, VdÜ.

I've written about the event before - it's a veritable smorgasbord of lectures, workshops, readings, awards and parties where translators and editors mingle and match minds. So I thought instead of blogging about it again myself, I'd make the workshop participants create their own collaborative blog about the whole thing. Watch this space for more information.

It's not until June, and incidentally you don't have to be German to attend.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Schlegel Tieck Prize to Breon Mitchell

Huzzah! The British Schlegel-Tieck Prize for translation from the German goes to the esteemed Breon Mitchell for his new version of Günter Grass's The Tin Drum.

I had the honour of fawning over Breon Mitchell in person the summer before last, when he read from this very translation in Berlin. So I know that a) he's completely charming, b) his translation is amazing and c) he does a great deal to support other translators and raise the profile of the profession as a whole.

The book also recently earned him the American Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize.

Read more about this year's TLS/Translators Association prizes in the TLS. Including a brief passage about Breon's work:

As Mitchell says, he has “sometimes placed the sound and rhythm of a sentence above normal syntax and grammar”, while honouring a “syntactic complexity that stretches language”.