They asked me to guest-edit an issue of Words without Borders showcasing emerging German writers. I nearly burst, I was so proud and excited. For years I'd been fantasizing about putting together an equivalent to Granta's Best of Young British Novelists, only with Germans. The power! The influence! The delights of including certain favourites and excluding writers who've blanked me at parties!
And then: Jesus, it was hard. Try choosing only ten writers, of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. As in, only ten writers you want the whole world to read. Also, try choosing ten pieces of writing that are varied and reflect different aspects of a "national literature" (let's not go there) and are also serious and fun to read and outstandingly good and grab you by the throat and shake you and work on their own and in combination. Thankfully, they let me choose only German writing rather than German-language writing from Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Luxemburg, and wherever. So only about half the total volume to sieve through.
I define the nebulous "emerging" as not yet world famous and with a maximum of two book-length publications. Some of the writers haven't put any books out yet. For poets I was looking for people who haven't yet been translated. I define "German writers" as people who write in German in Germany, possibly coming from elsewhere, or come from Germany and write in German elsewhere. There's a fair amount of moving around the world among the authors in the issue – I didn't check anyone's passports.
One thing very quickly went out the window: an age limit. Because an age limit is a ridiculous restriction that punishes writers who've been doing other things with their lives before getting published and rewards writers who take the straight path. Another thing was that I sought help and advice on poetry, because I know very little indeed about poetry.
Anyway, look upon their works ye mighty, and despair. Maybe no one will remember them in ten years' time or maybe they'll be famous the world over. These are my emerging German writers:
Thanks to my fellow translators Amanda DeMarco, Jake Schneider and Julie Winter, and to the lovely editors at Words without Borders. The issue also features a special on writers from Burundi, which you should also read. Also I wrote an introduction. Enjoy. I am available for interviews.