There have been a number of requests for a list of new things to read during #germanlitmonth. Happy to oblige.
Firstly a couple of tips as to where you can hunt out the new.
1) Download the 3 percent database lists all new translations in the US. Most of the German titles there (and there are 40 of them) have also been published in the UK this year.
2) Check out New Books in German which has a feature on newly released translations.
3) Keep your eye on The German and Swiss Lists from Seagull Books. Always plenty of interesting reads to be found among them, including 2 I’ve selected below,
I was intending to keep up with the new releases this year, but, as it is wont, time has run away from me Plus it has been a year of plenty! I’ll need next year to catch up. That shouldn’t be a problem as there appears to be an almost total famine of translations from German in the 2015 UK spring catalogues.
Nevertheless below is a selection of 10 2014 contemporary fiction releases, complete with publishers’ blurb. For the purposes of this post, contemporary fiction means authors who are still living with books available in English by 12th October.
Without further ado:
Volker Braun – Rubble Flora
Translated by David Constantine and Karen Leeder
For poetry lovers.
Rubble Flora is a selection of poems from the distinguished, half-century-long career of German poet Volker Braun. Born in the former East Germany, Braun is a humane, witty, brave, and disappointed poet. In the East, his poetry upheld the voice of the individual imagination and identified with a utopian possibility that never became reality. He might be said to have found a truly singular voice amid the colossal upheavals of 1989-exploring the triumph of capitalism and the languages of advertising, terror, politics, and war. At the same time, Braun is a sensual poet in tune with the natural landscape. He has his own touchstones in world literature, and many of his poems set quotations from Rimbaud, Shakespeare, and Brecht into his own context, where they work as ironic illuminations of a present plight. The literary principle of his work lies in the friction of these different voices, whether cast into free form, collage, or classical verse. Cumulatively, Rubble Flora offers a searing vision of these transformative decades.
Alina Bronsky – Just Call Me Superhero
Translated by Tim Mohr
For those seeking something completely different.
After an encounter with a dog in which he was worsted, seventeen-year-old Marek begins attending a support group for young people with physical disabilities, which he dubs “the cripple group,” led by an eccentric older man known as The Guru. Marek is dismissive of the other members of the support group, seeing little connection between their misfortunes and his own. The one exception to this is Janne, the beautiful young and wheelchair-bound woman with whom he has fallen in love. When a family crisis forces Marek to face his demons, group or no group, he is in dire need of support. But the distance he has put between himself and The Guru’s misshapen acolytes may well be too great to bridge.
An atmospheric evocation of modern Berlin and a vivid portrait of youth under pressure, Just Call Me a Superhero is destined to consolidate Alina Bronsky’s reputation as one of Europe’s most wryly entertaining and stylish authors.
Arno Camenisch – The Alp
Translated from Romansh by the author into German, and from German to English by Donal McLaughlin
For those who prefer short reads.
The first novel in Arno Camenisch’s celebrated “alpine” trilogy is set during a single summer. The four main (unnamed) characters are a dairyman, his farmhand, a cowherd, and a swineherd who all live and work in close proximity — but this is no Heidi. Theirs is an existence marked by dangerous work, solitude, cruelty, alcoholism, and sheer stubbornness; but the author’s handling of these situations and lives is characterized at all times by affection, surreal humor, and a brilliant ear for the sounds of the setting.
Monica Cantieni – The Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons
Shortlisted for the 2011 Swiss Fiction prize
Translated by Donal McLaughlin (and recommended by me. To be reviewed during #germanlitmonth)
For those seeking a quirky read with serious undertones.
“My father bought me from the council for 365 francs,” recalls the narrator in Monica Cantieni’s novel The Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons. She’s a young girl, an immigrant to Switzerland whose adoption has yet to be finalized. When she finally moves into her new home with her new family, she recounts her days in the orphanage and how starkly different her life is now. Her new community speaks German, a language foreign to her, and she collects words and phrases in matchboxes. Though her relationship with her adoptive parents is strained, she bonds with her adoptive grandfather, Tat, and together they create the eponymous Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons. Set in the time of the crucial 1970 Swiss referendum on immigration, the book introduces us to a host of colorful characters who struggle to make Switzerland their home: Eli, the Spanish bricklayer; Toni, the Italian factory worker with movie star looks; Madame Jelisaweta, the Yugoslav hairdresser; and Milena, the mysterious girl in the wardrobe. This is a book with a very warm heart, and rarely has a young girl’s narrative been at once so uproariously hilarious and so deeply moving.
Wolfgang Herrndorf – Why We Took The Car
Winner of the German Teen Literature Prize
Translated by Tim Mohr
For the young at heart and those who would like to participate in our sponsor’s forthcoming book club.
Mike doesn’t get why people think he’s boring. Sure, he doesn’t have many friends. (OK, zero friends.) And everyone laughs at him when he reads his essays out loud in class. And he’s never invited to parties.
But one day Tschick, the odd new boy at school, shows up at Mike’s house out of the blue. He dares him to go on a road trip with him. No parents, no map, no destination. Will they get hopelessly lost in the middle of nowhere? Probably. Will they meet crazy people and get into serious trouble? Definitely. But will they ever be called boring again?
Not a chance.
Michael Kumpfmüller – The Glory of Life
Winner of The Jean Monnet Prize for European Literature
Translated by Anthea Bell
For Kafka fans.
In July 1923, Franz Kafka is convalescing by the Baltic Sea when he meets Dora Diamant and falls in love. Set over the last year of Kafka’s life, the tale of Franz and Dora’s fragile time together in a Germany juxtaposes the excitement and vitality of Weimar Berlin with Kafka’s indecision and failing health. Mediated through letters, telegraphs, and the telephone, Michael Kumpfmuller captures the exhilaration of modernity and the essence of a friendship nourished by communication.”The Glory of Life” meditates on what really makes life worth living. A compelling combination of historical research and fictional reconstruction, this evocative and artful novel captures the inner life of one of the twentieth century’s most influential and revered literary figures.
Nele Neuhaus – Big Bad Wolf
Translated by Stephen T Murray (and recommended by me. To be reviewed durng #germanlitmonth.)
For crime lovers and those wanting to find out what happens after Snow White Must Die.
On a hot day in July, the body of a sixteen-year-old girl is pulled from the river Main near Frankfurt. She has been brutally attacked and murdered, but no one seems to miss her and no one seems to know who she is. Investigations lead to a rural children’s home in the mountains, and to a TV presenter whose research took her too close to the wrong people. As investigators Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein dig deeper, they uncover a web of lies and deceit in the midst of a middle-class idyll. And then the case gets personal . . .
Clemens Setz – Indigo
Shortlisted for 2012 German Book Prize
Translated by Ross Benjamin
For lovers of metafictional (?) psychological thrillers.
It is 2007 and Austria is in the grip of a sinister epidemic: Indigo Syndrome. Children are the carriers, and anyone who comes near them is afflicted with severe headaches, nausea, and vertigo. These Indigo children are sent away to the Helianau Institute in Styria, in the mountainous heart of the country, a protected zone where they cannot affect the wider population. There, one of the teachers, Clemens Setz, witnesses students being taken away in strange masks. They never come back. When Setz tries to find out what is going on, he swiftly loses his job, but he doesn’t give up trying to uncover Helianau’s dark secrets.
Timur Vermes – Look Who’s Back
Translated by Jaimie Bulloch
Winner of Lizzy’s Best Book Trailer of the Year. :) Also bestseller of the bunch.
For those who aren’t afraid to break taboos.
Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.
People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the Führer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.
Look Who’s Back stunned and then thrilled 1.5 million German readers with its fearless approach to the most taboo of subjects. Naive yet insightful, repellent yet strangely sympathetic, the revived Hitler unquestionably has a spring in his step.
Juli Zeh – Decompression
Translated by John Cullen
More psychological thrillery from a lady on my completist list and a book I have actually read and reviewed.
Jola is a beautiful and privileged soap star who wants very much to be taken seriously; her partner Theo is a middle-aged author with writers’ block. In an attempt to further her career, Jola is determined to land the lead role in a new film about underwater photographer and model Lotte Hass.
To improve her chances, the couple travel to Lanzarote and hire diving instructor Sven, paying him a large sum for exclusive tuition. Sven is meticulously planning his most ambitious expedition yet – to an untouched wreck 100 metres down on the ocean floor. Diving calls for a cool head and, as a sinister love triangle develops, events rapidly get out of hand. But whose story do we trust – Sven’s or Jola’s?
Deliciously claustrophobic, smart, and unrelentingly intense, this psychological thriller with shades of Patricia Highsmith will leave readers gasping for air
Thanks to the generosity of the Glasgow Goethe Institute, I can offer 3 readers their pick of the crop. Just leave a comment saying which book you’d like to read, and where you would review it during German Literature Month. Competition is open internationally.
if you want the book in a language other than English, please say so. If the Book Depository stocks it and delivers to your country, this will be doable.
Winners will be chosen and notified by email on Sunday 12th October.