Friday, 31 May 2013

Peter Stamm: Always the Bridesmaid

Poor old Swiss writer Peter Stamm. He's constantly being nominated for prizes, and hardly ever gets them. He's been in the running for the Bachmann Prize (1999), the German Book Prize (2009), the Swiss Book Prize (2008 & 2011), the Best Translated Book Award (2012) and the Man Booker International Prize (2013). In 2006 he was shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award, and now he is again, for his collection We're Flying (trans. Michael Hofmann).

In fact he's the only translated writer on that shortlist, which probably reflects the fact that few short story collections get translated into English in the first place. You may recall Tim Parks accusing him of writing explicitly for the sake of getting translated, in a strange case of what I now suspect was a misunderstanding. Parks noted that Stamm writes plain, unadorned prose and assumed that was a deliberate tactic to make the medicine go down in translation. Which is something Parks himself has since stated he does in his own writing, to some extent, but Stamm has always said he doesn't. I got terribly upset about it at the time. Anyway, as far as I understand they're now big buddies after Parks invited Stamm to a conference on the subject in Italy - but not big enough buddies for Stamm to win the Man Booker even though Parks was on the jury.

Poor guy. Let's all cross our fingers for him this time, shall we? €25,000!

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