Sunday, 7 October 2012

Youth Springs Eternal

How wonderful that these young whippersnappers keep on popping up and writing books, eh? I'm turning forty next year and am preparing myself mentally by pretending I'm already forty. It's fine, I'm totally relaxed about it.

Only they will keep putting large-format pictures of young people in the newspaper book sections. Smooth-skinned, wide-eyed, already achieved so much with their youthful, fast-flowing imaginations. Die Zeit has a cover shot of eight German-language writers around thirty in a hothouse. Because they're still growing, geddit? These ones are mainly photogenic young women - all talented, too, I'm sure: Stephanie Gleißner, Nora Bossong (see below), Marjana Gaponenko, Sabrina Janesch, Vea Kaiser, Kevin Kuhn (see below), Rebecca Martin, Teresa Präauer, Marie Pohl and Andreas Stichmann (see below). That's ten, so presumably some were too embarrassed to take part in the photo shoot. I'm in two minds - I'm glad to see young writers getting attention, but of the six pages they share, at least half the space is taken up by photos, while the rest of the literary supplement is devoted to old(er) people.

More excitement over at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, where they have Zwanzig unter vierzig on the literature special title page. Unapologetically lifted from the New Yorker, which they acknowledge with a huge double proofreading error as "Fourty under twenty". Actually, that's the main reason why I had to blog about this, because it made me spit out my false teeth. Much upset discussion on Facebook today, as more mature writers get upset about being ruled out and under-forties get upset about being left out. They do actually write, "These are the best young German-language writers of today. The contemporary canon". But critics do like to think of themselves as canon-builders, don't they?

So, whether ridiculous or not, what's interesting is that eight of the FAS's twenty are or will soon be available in English: Daniel Kehlmann, Alina Bronsky, Helene Hegemann, Thomas Pletzinger, Thomas Glavinic, Uljana Wolf, Judith Schalansky and Clemens Meyer. Two of them in, ahem, my translation. The others are: Antje Wagner, Clemens J. Setz (and it's only a matter of time before he ends up in English, what with translator Ross Benjamin gunning for him), Benjamin Maack, Lisa-Marie Dickreiter, Andreas Stichmann, Nora Bossong (who's having a good week!), Thomas Melle, Annika Scheffel (my best-dressed lady writer of 2011), Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre (who I was surprised isn't much, much older than me), Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker (best hair), Maxim Drüner (who's actually a rapper but once told Antonia Baum at a party that he writes stories, another great source of LOLz) and Kevin Kuhn. Note that seven out of these links are to New Books in German or Litrix, in case you happen to be a publishing person trawling the net in search of the next hot German star under forty.

Do I have to say it? It's silly, isn't it? Next issue they should portray twenty writers born under Sagittarius. Actually I'm a teeny bit upset myself, because the Open Mike competition is recruiting bloggers for its blog. And they have to be under thirty-five. I shall get my revenge by one day - one day! - putting together an anthology of my own, of seventeen German-language writers I like, regardless of any other factors whatsoever. There will be no photos. It will be called Love German Books - The Anthology. Publishers - you have my address.


Helen MacCormac said...

I see this as a really positive sign: LITERATURFÖRDERUNG is kicking in. There are rumours that you no longer have to be male and drink yourself to death to become a writer. A lot of these "young people" (remember when you thought 27 was old?)have studied creative writing, won awards, been working as writers in some way or other for ages... A bit of hype won't kill a good book. The rest of us can always say we are old school:)

Helen MacCormac said...

Re: Literaturförderung
A journalist I met at the Leipzig Book Fair said:
It's good AND it's bad.

Joe Kroll said...

The problem with canon-building is that it seems to be replacing serious literary criticism, not least in the papers you mention ("Die Zeit" in particular). A pretty good assessment of the situation is here: