This year's participants in the Austrian literary talent show by the name of the Bachmann Prize have been announced! Fourteen emerging Swiss, Austrian and German writers will battle it out in a trial by critical jury over three days this July. The prize is very prestigious and has often been a launching pad for literary talent, provided the poor writers don't collapse under the pressure.
The bad news, however, is that the "Bachmann-Preis goes Europe" translation programme has been cancelled for this year due to a lack of funding. I'm particularly upset about this because I was one of the translators who worked on the project in the previous two years. It was an invigorating experience and a great way to identify exciting writers, some of whom I'd ignored in the past and some of whom I'd simply never heard of. According to the organizers ORF, around thirty translated books came directly out of the project - including my translation of Dorothee Elmiger's Invitation to the Bold of Heart.
So you can put it down to sour grapes but I still feel this is an unfortunate decision that plunges the Bachmann Prize right back into provinciality. Making the competing texts available in seven European languages was both a sign of openness to other cultures and a genuine benefit to the writers themselves, who thus had an instant calling-card for the international stage. I know a number of them were invited to Britain, Ireland and the United States on the strength of that calling-card, and I'm sure many also travelled elsewhere too.
I wrote a live blog on the Bachmann Prize in the previous two years but I won't be doing so this year. Partly simply because I'm moving house around that time and will have enough on my plate, but also because I felt I had genuine insights to offer through my intimate knowledge of the texts and I wanted to share those thoughts. It was always very exhausting but rewarding, and I know that people actually followed it - even in Klagenfurt where the competition takes place.
I know you'll all write to your MEPs and stage a sit-in at Klagenfurt to fight for the reintroduction of the translation programme. And rest assured that if it is reinstated, I shall reinstate the love german books live blog.