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Articles tagged "German Literature"

“Memoirs of a Polar Bear” by Yoko Tawada

In reading Yoko Tawada’s latest novel, it is impossible not to consider the vast ways in which the world a person inhabits differs from the world of his or her ancestors. Many features remain the same, of course, and there is typically an overlap in time and space, but even in the short span of a generation or two, so much changes. Memoirs of a Polar Bear follows three generations of polar bears, and with each generation, not only are there changes in culture, politics, and...

From the Translator: Schernikau’s Quiet Radicalism

Image: From the cover of Ronald M. Schernikau’s Kleinstadtnovelle (Small-town Novella). Lucy Renner Jones’s translation of Ronald M. Schernikau’s “Small-town Novella”​ appears in the June 2016 issue of Words without Borders: “The Queer Issue VII.” It all started with a photograph of a longhaired man with a beard wearing eyeliner. He gazes with an enigmatic smile into the camera and his fingernails look as if they are lacquered...

Q&A with Festival Neue Literatur’s Ross Benjamin

Words without Borders spoke with Festival Neue Literatur curator Ross Benjamin about FNL’s seventh annual celebration of German-language literature from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, which will take place from February 25–28 in New York City.  Words without Borders: How does Festival Neue Literatur differentiate itself from other literary festivals? Ross Benjamin: FNL is the only US festival to showcase literature originally written in German. At the same time,...

Introduction: Emerging German Writers

For a long time, a large photo hung above the stage at Berlin’s Literary Colloquium, shot by Renate von Mangoldt and showing a meeting of the writers’ group Gruppe 47 there in 1965. Rows and rows of frowning white men in suits, fading into the background, the tobacco smoke almost tangible. That’s the image I have in my mind, I hope falsely, when I imagine how readers think of German writing. This issue of Words without Borders is dedicated to emerging German writers. It...

Not From Here: On Translating Zoran Drvenkar’s “Standing in the Rain”

Im Regen stehen, Zoran Drvenkar’s autobiographically informed novel about growing up in Berlin in the seventies, comes from a place that doesn’t exist any more. The hermetically sealed West Berlin of pre-unification days, full of young men fleeing military service in West Germany proper, Gastarbeiter (guest workers) from Turkey, Yugoslavia, Italy, and Morocco, and avant-garde musicians like the Einstürzende Neubauten (Collapsing New Buildings) coaxing sounds out of...

No Light in the Windows

Christmas was a weary old man when he entered the city. Puffy-eyed and heavy-legged, he dragged himself along, from street to street, from flat to flat. Our door must have been the last one on a long list, because when he finally got here, I slept through the presents and was comatose long before the oohing and aahing had faded away. There was nothing worth staying up for. I didn’t care about any of our relatives and because Dad wasn’t living here any more, half of them stayed...

Otfried Preussler’s “Krabat and the Sorcerer’s Mill”

Like many of the classic children’s books being reissued by New York Review Books, Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill by Otfried Preussler has the potential to appeal to readers of various ages: nostalgia-seekers who enjoyed Anthea Bell’s excellent translation when it was first published in the 1970s, and young aficionados of fantasy fiction who’ll be happy to discover, in teenage hero Krabat, a worthy progenitor to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and Christopher...

Translating A Life Between in Mely Kiyak’s “The Gold Watch\”

In 1961, Germany and Turkey signed a recruitment agreement to fill job vacancies in Germany's booming post-war economy while also providing Turkey with benefits. Young, healthy, preferably unmarried Turkish men would be enlisted to work in German factories and mines. Transportation to, and housing in, Germany for these Gastarbeiter, guest workers, would be paid for, and at the end of two years, they would return to Turkey, taking their earnings, as well as new skills, back to their home...

Exploiting the Translator’s Mind Palace: Contemporary German Fiction 101

As a single parent of a teenager, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to earn extra money without doing less literary translation work, which I love and which provides about half of my income. I am also convinced that we translators are experts in our respective fields, getting closer to the literature we work on than almost anyone else. The literature I work on is contemporary German fiction, and I live in Berlin. How could I turn my accumulated knowledge about today’s German...

Translator Relay: Breon Mitchell

What is your connection to the language(s) you translate from and/or the place(s) where the books you translate are written? I grew up on the plains of Kansas and had no knowledge at all with any foreign language until I took beginning German in high school. I assume Mr. Goering, our teacher, was of German descent (I had never heard of that other Goering, and so could not find the situation ironic), but with the exception of Mr. Goedicke, who made a wrought-iron table...

Interview with Susan Bernofsky

Prize winning translator Susan Bernofsky’s literary translations include the works of Robert Walser, Jenny Erpenbeck, Yoko Tawada, Gregor von Rezzori, Uljana Wolf, and Franz Kafka. Her latest project, In Translation: Translators on their Work and What it Means (Columbia University, 2013), which she co-edited with Esther Allen, is a collection of essays by translators on the arts and techniques of translating literature and poetry. Bernofsky teaches at Columbia University’s...

The Translator Relay: Shelley Frisch

Our "Translator Relay" series features a new interview each month. This month's translator will choose the next interviewee, adding a different, sixth question. Ross Benjamin passed the baton to Shelley Frisch, who has published widely on German literature, film, cabaret, and the political and linguistic dimensions of exile, as well as on translation; her book on origin of language theories, The Lure of the Linguistic, was published in 2004.  Her many translations from...

The Translator Relay: Ross Benjamin

Our "Translator Relay" series features a new interview each month. This month's translator will choose the next interviewee, adding a different, sixth question. This month, Peter Constantine passed the baton to writer and German translator Ross Benjamin, a 2003-2004 Fulbright scholar, 2010 winner of Helen and Kurt Wolffs Translator Prize, and 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship recipient to translate Clemens J. Setz's The Frequencies.   What is your...

Pulse beyond the Horizon

After the water, there was nothing. And if you looked long enough at the horizon, you could make out a stillness that transformed when the waves crashed against the rig's legs and the rusted steel platform began to sway. The drill ate through layers of limestone into the earth's interior, it probed deep beneath the seabed while the reel on the drill floor rotated ceaselessly, and we, in twelve-hour shifts, stood by at the ready to connect more tubing to the well. The Gulf of...

Festival Neue Literatur This Week in New York

The Festival Neue Literatur has been around since 2010.  This festival of new writing from the German-speaking countries (Austria, Germany, and Switzerland) is put on in New York every year, in February, by a consortium of cultural institutes.  It takes place over a long weekend and consists of a series of linked readings and conversations that involve U.S. writers as well.  I’m serving as its curator this year. The idea behind the festival is that there is such a...

from “A Garden in the North”

Dr. Heidegger, the adjunct lecturer, lived in a rented room on a back courtyard off the Friedrichstrasse, above a brothel, and one can say that he kept an open house. At the age of seventeen, with a high-school diploma in his pocket, Heidegger had fled the parental spinning mill in a valley in the Swabian Alps with only two goals in mind: to exchange that provincial fustiness for the big city, and to learn languages. First, however, he had to get himself exempted from military service...

from “The Final Cut”

The four of them dragged the pig on the short ladder and lifted it onto the trestles in front of the sty. Their teeth clenched, the three men watched the woman, Diana Kampradt, the butcher.  “The stove door,” she instructed Sabine in the washhouse, “leave it ajar, so that there’s a draft, small pieces of wood, really get the steam going and keep on adding water, so that it doesn’t boil.” Outside, the butcher poured a bucket of cold water over...

from “The All-Rounder”

Wednesday At about three Farwick leaves the office building at one end of the market place. Just outside the door he stops. Is it warm or isn’t it? He’s carrying his light summer coat over his arm. Middle of May, which means one never knows quite what to do. Sometimes he finds it hard to make simple decisions. The office building has only been completed recently. It caused quite a stir. Sixty years after the end of the war a break with historical building styles;...

What I Wish For Myself

Of Wonder's songs the saddest about the downfall of New York City played on a record player in Hester Street of Brecht's poems the most beautiful written in the Charité 2 days before his death about the song of the blackbirds after his death of Shakespeare's plays the strangest about the prince behind the screen of his madness enslaved by rationalism and a tedious ghost of the nights the brightest in front of the KaDeWe the newspaperladies go their ways the...

from “Man Angel”

Endless, the levee. Endless, the dead straight path. Endless, the whirring of the bicycle tires on the asphalt, the whistling of the wind in their ears and the high, bare, immutable blue of the sky over their heads. Endless, the blazing hole of the sun, the shimmer of the heat over the fields and the cruelty of midsummer in the afternoon, when the greasy coating of sweat, dust, and sunscreen begins to drip from their faces onto the handlebars, and each revolution of the pedals climbs with...

Internet Life

On virtual seas I surf recklessly in every shape that I invent for myself omnipotent God among Gods mercifully I submerge a vulnerable fate create the world i seven seconds disappear into whoever’s story that only the mouse knows I erase death with one key and save beauty youth immortality For a while I don’t crash into life  

Fatum

On the bottom of the seas                                                                         the gods are...

Durs Grünbein’s The Bars of Atlantis

Despite its brief history, East Germany held potent sway over the Western imagination; “athletes, spies and writers were three things they seemed worryingly good at producing” as Michael Hofmann put it. Escape artists also belong on that list. Thanks to the steady stream of emigration, the GDR had lost over three million citizens by 1991. In retaliation, the Eastern authorities radically altered their half of Berlin until it was virtually unrecognisable. Aside from the...

State of Siege

Wherever to go and whatever from can always be said for certain: because it's Sunday and three cars in front of the house hour after hour Marx Engels Lenin Stalin in the back seat ad usum delphini They've come straight from Utopia Headquarters in Berlin-Lichtenberg smoking and reading the paper and waiting for objections coming from my poor and hesitant words newly hatched migrants trailblazers heading to a place where "talk of trees" does not involve silence...

One of Our Most Reliable Men

Where did they all go this time? Last Friday, that's right, Friday afternoon, it suddenly got quiet like this. There's always some kind of noise around here—footsteps, somebody coughing out in the hall—but when there's absolutely nothing going on, like now, you can feel it pressing down on your skull like a dead weight, and it's like you've got butterflies in your stomach, anyways, I went over to Comrade Tolkening's office but there wasn't a soul...

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