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.