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July 2015

Emerging German Writers

Image: Hendrik Krawen, "Der Mensch und sein Bild von sich” (the human being and one self’s image), 2008 100x140 cm, oil on canvas Photography by Uwe Walter

This month we present writing from emerging German authors. These writers nod to literary tradition while taking fresh approaches to current political and social conditions, providing a new vision of contemporary German culture. Acclaimed novelist Olga Grjasnowa, whose debut novel, All Russians Love Birch Trees, was published by Other Press, jumpstarts her second with a harrowing scene of a young woman imprisoned and tortured for drag racing. Finn-Ole Heinrich stares into the yawning hole left by loss. The droll Francis Nenik tracks a surprising postwar delivery from the United States to Poland. In stories from other battles, Isabelle Lehn’s extras soldier through war games, and Noemi Schneider travels in, and with, the Mideast conflict. Stephanie Bart pulls a rickshaw and no punches. Playwright Marianna Salzmann visits a bemused strip club, while essayist Bettina Suleiman links primate and human activities. In poetry, Simone Kornappel takes a roundabout approach to sexuality, and Deniz Utlu’s riff on the Divine Comedy lands a transsexual Beatrice in a dark German wood. We thank our guest editor, Katy Derbyshire, who introduces the issue and contributes several translations.

Our special feature brings our first publications from Burundi, a country thrust into the spotlight by political turmoil ahead of upcoming elections.

Introduction: Emerging German Writers

Like many other literatures, contemporary German writing is part reaction against previous generations and part continuation of traditions.

You Turn Your Head, I Turn My Head

Do I build a tree house without you?

The Legal Haziness of a Marriage

Ten days was too long for a conversion and too short for a re-education.

Rickshaw Diaries

Anyone wearing such a provocative pair of lederhosen is asking for trouble and shouldn’t be surprised to get it.


Maidenhands and Monologues

I roll myself up on the floor and purr like a cat.

Lessons from the Human Zoo

How many werewolves have there been since 1850?


as a mouse

lower the needle each time only in the verysame spotspot


If you’re dead you can go back to the barracks.


In Praise of an American Egg Wholesaler

"American chicken breasts will keep Europe at peace!”



He was an officer in an elite unit, and I don’t really want to know what that means.


After Half a Life

Call me Beatrice, she says. I wasn’t sent by any god.



Book Reviews

Mikhail Shishkin’s “Calligraphy Lesson”

Reviewed by Lucy Jones

Shishkin remains skeptical that language itself can cross borders—for example, in translation. For him, the problem lies in the incompatibility between translated texts and their readers.

Alain Mabanckou’s “The Lights of Pointe Noire”

Reviewed by Kate Prengel

In The Lights of Pointe Noire, Alain Mabanckou attempts to reconnect with his home, his family, and his own sense of place in the world—and his readers are along for the ride.

Kamel Daoud’s “The Meursault Investigation”

Reviewed by Victoria Baena

Kamel Daoud's The Meursault Investigation is a tale told in order to give the anonymous victim in Camus’s The Stranger a name—Musa—and a story of his own.

Göran Rosenberg’s “A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz”

Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz—part history, part memoir, part essay on the meaning of survival—insists that the Holocaust didn’t end in 1945. The book challenges the powerful redemptive narrative offered by even official histories

Urs Allemann’s “The Old Man and the Bench”

Reviewed by Anna Aslanyan

In following its own strict logic, Allemann’s fine-tuned absurdism evokes Beckett, who would feel equally at home in the old man's house, with its “bottle room” and “paper bag room,” and on his bench.

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