Friday, 24 January 2014

German Crime Prize to Friedrich Ani

The Germans love crime fiction. Probably every culture loves crime fiction, but the Germans love home-grown crime fiction with a passion. There's something about reading a crime novel where the mutilated corpse is found in your local park and the detectives drink strong black coffee on your local station forecourt that makes you happy. There are market stalls and poky little shops that do a roaring trade in used crime paperbacks. There's the TV crime show Tatort, which has been running since 1970 with the same opening theme, which is not unlike Doctor Who in its nation-building ubiquity and which features police detectives in all sorts of German, Austrian and Swiss regions. People meet up to watch it in bars on Sunday nights, and canteens across the country resound with conversation on Monday lunchtime over whether it was a good one or not.

Of course there are several prizes for crime fiction, reflecting just how important it is to the nation's psyche. The longest-running award is the Deutscher Krimi Preis, and this year it has gone to Friedrich Ani for his novel M. Ani is a big name; I can't count the number of times he's been recommended to me. I just looked him up and found he's won an astounding twenty-one prizes for his work. He sets his crime novels in Munich; M features the popular missing-persons private detective Tabor Süden. Not unlike a certain other famous detective, Süden retired for a while but was brought back by popular demand – now in his nineteenth book. Ani also writes young adult novels, poetry and screenplays, including for the Tatort series. A few of the Tabor Süden books have been adapted for the screen too.

So the most amazing thing about this prolific and talented author is that his books have apparently been translated into French, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Korean, Chinese and Polish – but not English. Publishers! What's the matter with you? M is set in a city Brits and Americans have heard of, has won a big fat prize, and features neo-Nazis. What else do you need? Good grief.

I'm hoping that someone somewhere is actually translating all these books as we speak, and will publish them all at once to surprise us. Wouldn't that be nice?


Steve said...

And no English translations yet of Robert Hültner's prize-winning Munich-set crime novels, neither the 1920s Inspektor Kajetan ones, which I like quite a bit, nor the contemporary Kommissar Türk ones, which I keep meaning to read.

Harvey Morrell said...

I'm working on an English translation, but it's mostly for my own pleasure. The hardest part is figuring out what to do with some of Ani's wordplay, especially the ones using the names of some of the main characters: Tabor SUDEN, Martin HEUER, and Sonja FEYERABEND. Some examples:

- Wie heißen Sie wieder?
- Martin Heuer
- Und nächstes Jahr?
The literal translation would be:
What did you say your name was, again?
Martin Heuer
And next year? (Heuer being the word for ‘this year’).

“Ihr Polizisten haben doch namen.” …. ” Heuer machen wir Feierabend im Süden.”

kjd said...

Steve: so much to discover! Thanks.

Harvey: That really is tough. I'd be tempted to cut at least some of it, but there might be a way to save it using subtly inserted explanations. Or of course, as with all humour, replace it with jokes that work in English. But I bet it's great fun.

RadiantFlux said...

Goodyear? Not the same, but at least makes sense. I'll never be a translator I know...