Friday 31 August 2012

International Translators' Day

Breadth and Depth: A Reading for International Translators’ Day
Sunday 30 September 2012

Four Berlin-based professional wordsmiths will be reading from their recent English translations and discussing their work.

The event is kindly hosted by Shakespeare & Sons Bookstore, Raumerstraße 36, 10437 Berlin,

Public transport
U-Bahn: Eberswalder Straße (U2), S-Bahn: Prenzlauer Allee, tram: M10 to Husemannstraße

Starts 7pm

Katy Derbyshire will be reading a story from All the Lights by Clemens Meyer about a refugee girl who becomes a boxer; Lucy Renner Jones will present an excerpt from the early diaries of Brigitte Reimann, which she is currently translating; Alistair Noon will read his rendering of Alexander Pushkin’s famous narrative poem The Bronze Horseman; Will Firth has chosen an extract from The Coming by Andrej Nikolaidis from Montenegro, one of the winners of the EU Prize for Literature in 2011.

Light refreshments will be available, and the three books which have already been published will be on sale.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday 30 August 2012

What Happens in Frankfurt...

You're all going to Frankfurt, right? To the book fair I mean. And you all want to learn lots about the German book market and translation funding, I know you do. Then you need to come to this event which I am moderating! It is slightly early in the morning but I know how dedicated you all are. And it's free!

Another thing you probably want to do is go to the Hotlist indie book award ceremony and party, right? It's the same day! But later on. At the Literaturhaus Frankfurt. All the highlights on one day!

And one last thing: I know all German publishers read this. And you know you have my email address. It's time to invite me to your parties now. Thank you.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Christoph Peters: Wir in Kahlenbeck

Christoph Peters' fifth novel, Wir in Kahlenbeck, is longlisted for the German Book Prize. I might not have noticed it otherwise, although I did enjoy his Mitsukos Restaurant, which was a very thoughtful and quite funny novel about a Japanese woman running a restaurant in a German backwater - and all the fantasies the locals project onto her.

His latest is loosely based on his own years at a strict Catholic boarding school. Let me clear one thing up right now: I haven't read the book. I don't intend to read the book, unless it actually wins the big prize. So this isn't a genuine review. But I did attend a very entertaining and informative event with the author last night, which I wanted to tell you about.

Peters was in conversation with the critic Gregor Dotzauer. Both men are classic lapsed Catholics, but of two different kinds. Dotzauer is the hating kind, and Peters the forgiving kind. So the conversation was quite fascinating. Dotzauer would niggle away at the novel, trying to make it an anti-Catholicism tract, and Peters would nudge him right back onto the fence, but in a very intelligent, considered way. Not quite bulls locking horns, but you get the picture. The event, incidentally, was standing-room only, and full of other writers. I assume this is a good sign.

The novel revolves around Carl Pacher ("Note the initials!" said Dotzauer, and we laughed, although not the gentleman next to me, who took it all very seriously.). He's 15 and trying to accomodate a burning curiosity about girls into his life as an almost fanatical Catholic at a boys' school. Which is genuinely funny. Meanwhile, the priests at the school try to drum the fear of God into their charges with physically repulsive collective punishments and theologically questionable blanket statements. And the boys, being boys all lumped together, are horribly cruel to each other on top of all the other tortures.

The writing, I have to say, is gorgeous. Lyrical descriptions, convincing dialogue, all beautifully put together. I wasn't as bowled over as the rest of the audience by the bathos of teenage utterings against the backdrop of the nature descriptions, for instance, but you know what they say about German humour. Peters told us he tried to write about Catholicism with a neutral, ethnologist's eye, and certainly he didn't seem to be trying to get his own back on anyone, from what I could tell. But I'd still question whether it's possible to write like a scientist about something that was so much part of your own life - formative years spent at a Catholic boarding school are going to leave a mark on you, whatever happens. Incidentally, Christoph Peters' wife, the writer Veronika Peters, was a nun when they first met. I bet Easter is fun round their house (I know. Cheap joke. I was going to delete it but I changed my mind).

Peters assured us that the novel is just as suitable for non-Catholics as it is for Catholics, as he assumes no prior knowledge of the faith - East Germany, he told us, is the most secular place in the world, so plenty of readers will know little at all about religion. But still, I personally don't want to spend 512 pages exploring a Catholic boarding school, no matter how well written those pages are. I do realise, though, that for other lapsed Catholics, former boarding school pupils, former teenage boys, and people with more interest in religion than me, this could well be a life-changing novel. Maybe you should try it.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

German Book Prize Longlist Book

So the German book trade organization does a free book with extracts from all the titles longlisted for the big German Book Prize every year. And every year it's a big deal to get hold of it. I pull all the strings I can but this year I still couldn't find out in advance which bookshops were going to have it in stock. In the past two years they put extracts online, which made my life easier (or less embarrassing), but this time there's only an app, and I don't have the snazzy hardware. I know, I ought to embrace these things, but I'm poor.

So this year it was out into the cruel, hard world again to traipse around bookshops asking for the booklet. I don't know why because I do read a fair amount of books and I do realise that booksellers are the world's coolest individuals, but I hate asking for things in bookshops. It makes me feel like a stuttering ten-year-old, it instantly reduces my German skills to Mittelstufe I and my voice to barely audible. Maybe it's to do with revealing my personal taste to a stranger, who might possibly judge me on it. Live. But still, I took it upon myself to tour Berlin in search of the book blogger's holy grail.

Independent bookshop one shall remain nameless but is in Kreuzberg. The lady said I should contact the Börsenverein if I wanted it. I said I already had (which was exaggerated) and they said "in good bookstores". The lady looked puzzled. I looked puzzled. I left.

Independent bookshop two was ocelot in Mitte. I walked in and approached the lady behind the counter, cleared my throat and started in on my spiel about the free book with the... "Oh you mean from the Börsenverein? Yes, we've ordered that, it should be in next week. Right, boss?" "Yes, that's right, we ordered a hundred of them, just come in and pick it up." Fainting ever so slightly, I stammered that I'd come back on Monday. I went back yesterday, found the free book prominently displayed on the counter, told a different lady that was just what I'd been looking for, could I just take one, and she smiled and seemed pleased that someone would come in specially for a slightly obscure free book and not actually buy anything. I left with the book, impressed. Compare a previous experience here and here to understand why I was so pleased.

Ocelot is a new bookshop. Actually I think there's also a comma after the lower-case name, but I don't feel the need to adhere to silly punctuation. It's terribly swanky to look at, all veneer surfaces and open spaces, with a café counter. This was my third visit after several longing glances through the huge display window (I believe I mentioned my financial situation above). The first time, I was looking for a particular book, a modern classic if you like, and they had it exactly where it should be. The second time was for an event, which was a tad on the dull side but that was hardly their fault. And then this. If you're looking for a good book in Mitte, you should go there too. They have a blog and hold events and seem to be very dedicated. A lovingly curated, modern bookshop, I'd say.

Friday 24 August 2012

Mad Hatter's Review/Transfiction Seeking Submissions

My friends at Transfiction are calling for translations from German for KRAUTLIT, a German special of the Mad Hatter's Review. They call themselves "edgy and enlightened literature, art and music in the age of dementia". I'm sure you must have something suitable up your sleeves.

Looking forward to seeing the results next year!

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Bespoke Literature

bThere's been a huge gathering of writers in Edinburgh, sort of vaguely international and also set for a brief recap in Berlin at the upcoming International Literature Festival. One of the topics was "the future of the novel", and indeed this is what the Berlin event will be about. I'm slightly dubious because the German participant at that event, Georg Klein, while being a fine and terribly well respected writer and all that, is hardly pushing back the boundaries of fiction. And Tim Parks and John Banville? But we shall see. I was going to link to the event but I failed to find one at the festival website.

Whatever the case, the Guardian has written up China Miéville's closing talk on the same subject. Obviously I've never read China Miéville  – does he write in German? No – but I'd say he's like a London version of Dietmar Dath. Only with more piercings, although what do I know about DD's body enhancements? For some time I was convinced Dath didn't actually exist, until I saw photographic evidence from a reliable source, and I still haven't managed to catch him live. You can listen to him reading an entire 1000-page novel in 35 sections at litradio, although there's no guaranteeing it's really him.

Miéville came up with some exciting ideas too though. Apparently he talked about readers becoming active as "guerilla editors" who, blending fanfics and original writing, could remix literature to make their own versions. "Anyone who wants to shove their hands into a book and grub about in its innards, add to and subtract from it, and pass it on, will … be able to do so without much difficulty," he's quoted.

Imagine the fun – not unlike translating – of reinterpreting or adapting a piece of writing. I love it! Of course the other 49 writers at the conference didn't, it sounds like, fearing for their creative integrity. I suspect, though, that they weren't thinking in sufficiently utopian terms. All those vampire Jane Austen books, for instance, have done little to damage Jane Austen and a lot to bring more fun into reading. I have a zombiefied German classic on my shelves (which I haven't read), Die Leichen des jungen Werthers, and I can't hear Goethe complaining.

I can think of two examples already operating today, where the internet is helping people to read and understand through collaborative processes. Firstly the fascinating, where moderated comments act as footnotes to Samuel Pepys' original diary entries, along with a great deal of snazzy extra material like a map of places mentioned, news, an encyclopedia and other stuff. And then there's Tailored Texts, a very exciting project "which allows lovers of language and literature to collaborate in the reading and annotation of original-language texts that are in the public domain." I can't begin to explain what these people are doing, but I think you can imagine it as an unlimited collection of margin notes: layers and layers of readings and definitions for each text. The only German book on there right now is Goethe's Faust, but you can add your own as long as they're in the public domain. Please go there and join in if it's your kind of thing. Certainly it's only a short step from here to what Miéville was talking about.

And then – back to the future of the novel – Miéville pointed out that the internet has brought together all the freaks interested in writing from elsewhere:
A first hope: the English-language publishing sphere starts tentatively to revel in that half-recognised distinctness of non-English-language novels, and with their vanguard of Scandinavian thrillers, small presses, centres and prizes for translation, continue to gnaw at the 3% problem, all striving against the still deeply inadequate but am-I-mad-to-think-improving-just-a-little profile of fiction translated into English.
And translation is now crowdsourced, out of love. Obscure works of Russian avant-garde and new translations of Bruno Schulz are available to anyone with access to a computer. One future is of glacially slowly decreasing, but decreasing, parochialism.
And those publishers of translated fiction are also conduits for suspicious-making foreign Modernism.
I hope so too.

 Update: I found the entire speech too, and have amended the final quote here. I love it just a tiny mit more now.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Gutekunst Prize to Daniel Clausen

Congratulations to Daniel Clausen, a Master's student, for snapping up the Gutekunst Prize for Young Translators from the German in America. This is one of those excellent awards for which under-35s pit their wits against a particular text, with the resulting translations compared in anonymous form by the judges. A good thing. Clausen gets $2500 to spend on bicycles or outdoor pursuits or hobby farming. Go to the link to download his translation.

Friday 17 August 2012

Suggestions, Please

Two projects are looking for suggestions right now. The first is the Dublin literary magazine The Stinging Fly:
Our Summer 2013 issue will showcase literary translation of new and contemporary prose fiction from around the world. In conjunction with Dublin-based literary translation agency, Parkbench Publishing Services, we are now calling for submissions.
So, if you are a translator and you know of a new writer or new writing that you think we should know about, whatever the source language may be, please get in touch.
We are particularly interested in finding/translating short stories, though excerpts from novels and novellas will also be considered.
We hope to include work by new and emerging writers and translators, alongside the work of more established practitioners.
 Exciting, no? There's a form to fill in on the Stinging Fly website linked above.

And secondly, our And Other Stories German-language reading group is collecting suggestions for our next round of reading. We're looking for exciting contemporary novels written by women, to redress AOS's embarrassing gender imbalance. We'll be holding meetings in November, December and January (in Berlin) to discuss each one we pick from the preliminary suggestions, with a view to proposing one of them for translation. There'll probably be a meeting in London too, but you can also comment on the books via the AOS website - and we were pleased to find that a good few people did so during the last round.

I think the last round of discussions went astoundingly well. We had an excellent turn-out of readers in Berlin and some very heated discussions. The upshot was that none of our three books ended up selected for translation, for various reasons. But don't let that stop you joining in the next round - I know we won't!

Update: Oh yeah, contact me or share suggestions in the comments section - thanks.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Publishing People Who Publish

The German literary pages are up in arms over a journalist who wrote a crime novel under a pseudonym. The alleged big deal being that the fictional victim bears a resemblance to another journalist. But hey, I write quite a lot about translators here, so I suppose I can understand journalists' fascination with other journalists.

In the course of the brouhaha, Elmar Krekeler of Die Welt wrote a quite interesting piece about a new trend in German publishing: publishers inventing their own writers. (I'm not the first to point it out, but just for the record: writing under a pseudonym is hardly a new practice.) Krekeler has a lovely anecdote about a novel called Das Lächeln der Frauen, which is about a writer invented by a jaded editor (oops, spoiler!). And seeing as everyone's playing spot the pseudonym, Krekeler suspects that the writer Nicolas Barreau is an invention of the book's German editor Daniela Thiele. Sweet. Nino Haratischwili's wonderful debut novel Juja does a similar thing, by the way, on a very complex scale. Anyway, the theory is that publishers have had enough of all these troublesome writers with their egos and translators with their financial demands, and have decided to do it themselves.

This going on the assumption that one Jean-Luc Bannalec, author of a "Breton crime novel" is actually Jörg Bong, head of German-language fiction at the Fischer publishing house. I haven't read it but Kiepenheuer & Witsch say they're "in negotiation" to sell translation rights to France, so it must be good. And Krekeler also mentions Veit Heinichen, former Berlin Verlag co-founder, who writes crime novels set in Italy.

Rather than feeling uppity at having the wool pulled over my eyes, I'm quite impressed that these people find the time to write books alongside a career in publishing. Think of Hanser bossman Michael Krüger, who writes all manner of things after getting up at the crack of dawn every day and working his fingers to the bone, for instance this piece on burning books on the Seagull Books blog (I believe Seagull may be translating some of his poetry in future but I'm not entirely sure).

And the absolute case in point has to be Jo Lendle, who runs the DuMont publishing house. I seriously didn't want to enjoy his most recent novel Alles Land, because his German Book Office video got more clicks than my German Book Office video.* So I left it on the shelf for quite some time before grudgingly reading it, only to discover that it's actually genuinely excellent. A fictionalised life story of the man who came up with continental drift theory, geologist, meteorologist and polar explorer Alfred Wegener, only told in a very endearing and contemporary way - and so well written too! Obviously I couldn't possibly do him the favour of a proper review, but just so you know.  
I say: Doesn't it make a book even more fun when you can imagine the poor author scratching together an hour a day to write it after a hard day at the office, rather than gazing out at the view from their Tuscan villa in between paragraphs? I don't subscribe to the "we shouldn't care who writes the books, the literature is all that counts" view, because I for one don't find it possible to separate my curiosity about writers from my interest in their work, so I think it's unrealistic to expect others to do so. And I can imagine that editing other people's work and massaging writerly egos all day long really would make you want to just cut the crap and do it yourself. If the result is good writing, where's the problem?

*Of course, if you all go and click on it again that'll skew the statistics even more, so please click on mine as well just for the sake of my ego.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

German Book Prize Longlist 2012

Here it is, in all its glory: the twenty titles nominated for this year's big, big book prize.  

• Ernst Augustin: Robinsons blaues Haus (C. H. Beck, Januar 2012)

• Bernd Cailloux: Gutgeschriebene Verluste (Suhrkamp, Februar 2012)

• Jenny Erpenbeck: Aller Tage Abend (Knaus, September 2012)

• Milena Michiko Flašar: Ich nannte ihn Krawatte (Wagenbach, Januar 2012)

• Rainald Goetz: Johann Holtrop (Suhrkamp, September 2012)

• Olga Grjasnowa: Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt (Hanser, Februar 2012)

• Wolfgang Herrndorf: Sand (Rowohlt.Berlin, November 2011)

• Bodo Kirchhoff: Die Liebe in groben Zügen (Frankfurter Verlags-anstalt, September 2012)

• Germán Kratochwil: Scherbengericht (Picus, Februar 2012)

• Ursula Krechel: Landgericht (Jung und Jung, August 2012)

• Dea Loher: Bugatti taucht auf (Wallstein, März 2012)

• Angelika Meier: Heimlich, heimlich mich vergiss (Diaphanes, März 2012)

• Sten Nadolny: Weitlings Sommerfrische (Piper, Mai 2012)

• Christoph Peters: Wir in Kahlenbeck (Luchterhand, August 2012)

• Michael Roes: die Laute (Matthes & Seitz Berlin, September 2012)

• Patrick Roth: Sunrise (Wallstein, März 2012)

• Frank Schulz: Onno Viets und der Irre vom Kiez (Galiani Berlin, Februar 2012)

• Clemens J. Setz: Indigo (Suhrkamp, September 2012)

• Stephan Thome: Fliehkräfte (Suhrkamp, September 2012)

• Ulf Erdmann Ziegler: Nichts Weißes (Suhrkamp, August 2012)

I've tried to link to English-language information but that wasn't available in most cases. Apparently there'll be a free app featuring extracts from the novels, from the end of August. You can also get hold of the legendary hard-to-find booklet in participating bookstores from next week. There isn't a list of participating bookstores so good luck to you. I shall do my best to get my hands on the extracts and write up my traditional short opinionated blurbs about them before the shortlist is announced on 12 September. In the past the now-defunct signandsight website published English translations extracted from the shortlisted titles, which was a wonderful thing. Perhaps they'll make English extracts available elsewhere - that would certainly contribute to the award's international profile, so let's keep our fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, you can read my reviews of the three longlisted titles I've already read here, here and here. Anyway, it's a fairly eclectic list with a mixture of big guns and smaller names.

Monday 13 August 2012

Third-Hand But Still True

I feel back up to full power again now, which is good but means I spend too much time on the internet. Discovery of the day is a quote, via the very good HMH Literature in Translation tumblr blog, which took it from the very good Archipelago Books tumlbr blog. By the way, before I get to the point, I'm sorry but I'm a bit old-fashioned about these things. I'll just be sticking more or less to what I've been doing all along. I won't ever be giving you photos because visuals just aren't what I do, so none of this Tumblr business I'm afraid. I might one day look for a new off-the-peg design but actually I'm rather fond of my retro circles, which remind me of a drug-induced Angela Carter moment in my youth (you probably had to be there). So there you are.

The point is this quote from Richard Howard:
The relationship of the translator to the writer is an erotic relationship always, and you learn something about the person that you’re working with in an almost plastic, physical way that you can almost never learn about your friends.
I do find this a big problem, because of course as I've written before it's totally unrequited. So sad. I know of a few writerly couples who translate each other, which feels to me like it must be the most intimate thing ever, and would scare me slightly. As it is, there are writers I've been translating for a long time (not necessarily for publication), who feel like beloved old spouses whose tics I've grown accustomed to, there are some who I've fallen out of love with, most I delight in, and every new writer comes with a frisson of excitement. And those first meetings! Every single time, such high expectations and then such aching disappointment, like a bad date.

I may be sharing too much but I was so struck by the quote that I thought you'd all like to know.

Friday 10 August 2012

Bohemian Rhapsody

Will Self! I am crushing on the man as we speak. A friend said she might be able to get me his address, to which I intend to send a small selection of the books I've translated, in a non-stalky way. Does sending unrequested hardbacks by post count as stalking?

So first the guy writes this great venomous passionate piece in the Guardian about how Modernism is ace and contemporary British literature is stolid. And then there's this amazing, amazing thing. It's a digital literary essay by Will Self, about Kafka, mainly, and mainly about Kafka's story 'The Country Doctor'. The essay would be good in itself. But it's underlaid and overlaid and woven through with digital content - the original story, Michael Hofmann's translation, specially made documentaries featuring Will Self wandering around Prague, specially commissioned music, dance and theatre, animations, archive material, and just so much stuff that I can't list it all because that's all part of the fun.

It's called Kafka's Wound. You need to go there. You need to set aside at least one full evening to explore. I started last night and I've read the essay twice now - it's fascinating and there is much to disagree with and much to nod at. But I haven't finished yet. For translators, there's a 105-minute video of top translators Anthea Bell and Joyce Crick discussing the work of translating from German and translating Kafka in particular, filmed in London this past spring. I also need to revisit the audio material, specifically Willa Muir and Judith Butler. I may have to reread Catch-22 but perhaps not. I may be gone some time.

What a wonderful invention, speaking of next literature™. Also, look out for a very good humorous typo and the bit where Will Self nearly gets beaten up by a bearded denim-clad Czech.

If you have less time on your hands, you could alternatively read this short comic about Daniel Kehlmann's Measuring the World, surely an object lesson on German humour for Will Self, were he able to read German, which he assures us he isn't. You'd like it, Will.

Thursday 9 August 2012

Next Literature

You've been wondering what's coming next, haven't you? And you're in luck, because now there's Litflow to explain. Kicked off by some people at the Hildesheim creative writing programme, it's a magazine and a thinktank for next literature™. Utopian thinking about literary formats of the future, with (I think) a conference coming up in Berlin in September, bringing together creative and industry types from America and Germany including the inevitable but good Katrin Passig and top publishing boss Elisabeth Ruge. The magazine is not entirely free from sarcasm.

I read the magazine, which is in German only despite the English title and tags, and it left me feeling old and unexciting, and a little bit like I wasn't getting some big, big joke that everyone else is laughing at. And also that I just don't have enough free time to explore next literature™. But the German Federal Cultural Foundation is paying so it must be, you know, a serious undertaking of some kind.

On the plus side, Litflow is a zillion miles away from all those tiresome fetishist photos of mouldy old books you see on every other literature-related website in Germany. If you read German you should go and take a look for yourself, if only for the brilliant take-down of that book-scented perfume I deliberately haven't told you about here.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Six-Hour Drama Marathon, Anyone?

Sport, eh? Most bookish types will agree it's a bit crap, or at least the participatory bit. Stops you thinking weighty thoughts, what with concentrating on getting a small round object into a hole or whatever. Usually involves a little too much physical exertion. And I'm sure I'm not the only bookish type for whom the best thing about school Physical Education lessons was thinking up creative excuses for not taking part.*

Top enraged Austrian writer, Nobel laureate and playwright Elfriede Jelinek, however, gives us a number of other reasons not to like it, which are summed up in her six-hour play Sport. To wit:
Jelinek explores the marketing and sale of human bodies and emotions in sports with angry wit, questioning our obsession with fitness, body image and high performance at any cost. Sport is seen as a medium for fanaticism, as a form of war in peacetime.
And what better time to stage the play, in Penny Black's translation, than during the London Olympics? A two-finger salute to all that "our GDP is bigger than your GDP" medal-grabbing and competitive Union Jack displaying. So catch it this coming Sunday in a staged reading at the Soho Theatre - you can stroll in and out as you please during the six hours, but do watch out for the 200 kilos of toy stuffing. Team GB merchandise will not be on sale in the foyer.

Should you be too far away to attend, the very good German lit blog Litaffin has a useful list of books to read that feature sport.

*My sister came up with the frankly fantastic "I've got a shard of broken glass in the sole of my foot" and managed to evade at least two sessions in the school gym, where we had to go barefoot, until the PE teacher Mr. O'Sadist began to get suspicious. I was also - literally - scarred for life when I ran into my friend's raised hockey stick. I still have a dimple in my left cheek from that incident, but rather stupidly took Mrs. Humourless-Brisk's advice to get straight back in the saddle and onto the playing field.

Monday 6 August 2012

No Zweig Plaque

Alison Flood writes in the Guardian that English Heritage will not be attaching a blue plaque to the London building where the Austrian-born writer Stefan Zweig lived for five years in the 1930s. Apparently, "reaction to the recent reissue of his autobiography appeared to show that there is not a modern critical consensus about his work." Which made me laugh, especially when I (mistakenly) searched for reviews of Oliver Matuschek's recent biography and found only praise for Zweig, and then realised they were referring to poet and reluctant translator Michael Hofmann's entertaining slating of The World of Yesterday in the London Review of Books back in 2010. Want a blue plaque attached to your house after you die? Better not get on Michael Hofmann's nerves then.

There is of course an informal campaign to get Zweig's former house a blue plaque, led by vocal British campaigning authors Zadie Smith and Antonia Fraser. And according to Guy Cunningham's piece in Bookslut, Zweig's fans also include Joan Acocella, Clive James and the late John Geilguld. Not to forget the England football team's "cerebral leader" Roy Hodgson, who famously enjoyed Beware of Pity. Fraser mentions in the Guardian piece that "one of the things about London is that we welcome refugee writers – it's an honour for London and part of our heritage to have a plaque [commemorating Zweig]". English Heritage sees it differently and refuses to budge for the next ten years though, so don't plan your exiled writers sightseeing tour of London just yet.

Friday 3 August 2012

Go Girls!

Perlentaucher took me to Deutschlandfunk, where they report on an academic conference by the name of Fiktionen und Realitäten - Schiftstellerinnen im deutschsprachigen Literaturbetrieb. It sounds like it must have been absolutely fascinating, looking at women writers and "performance", how women writers are marketed (more emphasis on autobiographical details and family) and what women earn in the literary arena. This is my favourite part:
The annual average income in the "Word" section (of the artists' social insurance scheme) for men is 19,523 euro, for women 14,604 euro – women who write thus earn an average of 4,919 euro less than their male counterparts.
Fourteen and a half thousand euros. Per year. As they point out, most of them have another job to keep afloat. And they also say that women writers still feel discriminated against, citing a short piece by the very successful Julia Franck. As I've noted (and puzzled over) in the past, women's writing is also less frequently translated into English than men's books. And think of all those women who still write under gender-neutral initials rather than their first names - although that's not the case in German-speaking countries, as far as I'm aware.

At least, or at least for the time being, women writers aren't being called "girls" any more. If there's one thing that gets my goat it's the infantilisation of women by means of patronising labels like "Mädchenwunder" and ridiculous headlines like "Go Girls!" when referring to grown adults.

Women write good books. Get over it - and pay them equal respect and equal fees.

Thursday 2 August 2012

More on Apocalypsis

Trade mag Publishing Perspectives has a post by Sebastian Posth (for tongue-twister fans) on the e-publishing experiment Apocalypsis. German publishers Bastei Lübbe have been releasing Mario Giordano's specially commissioned thriller in serial form, each e-book totting up about 60 pages and including extra shiny stuff like sound and pictures. There are no concrete sales figures in the article, but the series seems to be keeping readers' interest afloat.

Posth is enthusiastic about the translation/marketing strategy:
Different approaches for different markets! Whereas the English version was translated in-house and distributed by Bastei Lübbe themselves, the Spanish and Mandarin version will be translated abroad and marketed internationally as a joint venture together with local publishing, distribution and retail marketing partners in Spain and China.
I'm not sure how to define in-house, because I'm not sure the English translator Diana Beate Hellmann actually lives in Germany, but certainly the German publishers commissioned their own translation rather than waiting for an English-language company to buy the rights. Fascinating stuff, and I'm sure I'm not the only one following this development with bated breath. Am I?