8 September 10 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

Sorry . . . All German, all day here at Three Percent. But again, following up on the first post this morning with the overview of the German Book Prize longlist, the shortlist was announced just a few hours ago and includes exactly two of the titles I thought sounded most interesting. (I so suck at predicting things like this. Which is why I’m not betting on the Man Booker . . . or the Nobel.)

Anyway, here are the six finalists, with the winner to be announced at the start of the Frankfurt Book Fair:

Jan Faktor, Georgs Sorgen um die Vergangenheit oder im Reich des heiligen Hodensack-Bimbams von Prag (Georg’s concern about the Past)

Thomas Lehr, September (Fata Morgana)

Melinda Nadj Abonji, Tauben fliegen auf (Falcons without Falconers)

Doron Rabinovici, Andernorts (Elsewhere)

Peter Wawerzinek, Rabenliebe (Motherless Child)

Judith Zander, Dinge, die wir heute sagten (Things We Said Today)

English excerpts will be available sometime over the next few weeks. I’ll definitely post about that as soon as they appear . . .

8 September 10 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Over at Love German Books, the wonderful Katy Derbyshire has a fun and informative overview of all the titles on this year’s German Book Prize longlist. As with years past (this is the third year that Katy’s written this sort of overview) she noticed some common themes among the books:

Teenage girls seemed to crop up rather frequently, which I love because there’s nothing sexier to read about than teenage girls. I do wonder if it’s a reaction to Helene Hegemann’s success though. The other common thread is setting things abroad, preferably in Eastern Europe or Paris as opposed to the USA, which was all the rage last year. Or if it’s not set abroad, an oppressive village setting is a bit of a classic in contemporary German writing. Also, about half the book covers feature some variant of trains, planes and automobiles – it would seem the German readership longs to get away from it all.

As a result, each of the write-ups has a note about where the book is set, and “Teenage Girl Factor” . . . Check out the link above to read about all the titles, but here are the ones that piqued my interest based on her write-ups:

Alina Bronsky, Die schärfsten Gerichte der tatarischen Küche

This is billed as “a delightfully spicy novel for women – emotionally charged, sensual, shocking and exotic – the story of the most passionate and astute grandmother of all time.” Which majorly pisses me off I’m afraid; because what do men get to read then – tales of golfing grandfathers?

Anyway, as with her first novel Broken Glass Park, Alina Bronsky just writes so entertainingly and convincingly that I can’t help jettisoning all my prejudices and simply enjoying the prose. This time it’s a quirky grandmother trying to abort her ugly daughter’s immaculately conceived foetus. Which is a hell of a lot funnier than it sounds. Very possibly a German version of that Ukrainian tractors book – fun, light post-Soviet reading matter with strong characters. Rights have already been sold to Europa Editions, so look out for an American version, probably translated by Tim Mohr. I know I’ll be reading it.

Jan Faktor, Georgs Sorgen um die Vergangenheit oder Im Reich des heiligen Hodensack-Bimbams von Prag

Jan Faktor is utterly cool – I’ve seen him live a couple of times and always gone home happy. According to the blurb, this is a book about a boy growing up in Prague: “Caught between war-traumatised aunts, a tyrannical uncle and a dazzlingly beautiful mother, all Georg wants is to escape to a new future.”

The extract is great stuff, detailing Georg’s concerns with his genitals and his obsession with his past. The language is delightful and intricate and witty but I suspect, from the extract, the length of the book – about 600 pages – and what I’ve heard him read, that it’s probably very, very rambling. The novel was also shortlisted for the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair in the spring and is on the longlist for oddest title. Too long for my weak wrists though, I’m afraid.

Michael Kleeberg, Das amerikanische Hospital

A Frenchwoman makes friends with an American soldier recovering from the Gulf War in the Parisian hospital of the title. I like the little I’ve read of Michael Kleeberg’s writing in the past – he seems to be uninterested in trendy subjects and chooses “real stuff” to write about. The publishers say: “Michael Kleeberg skilfully and movingly interweaves contemporary history and private lives, the mental horrors of war and the physical horrors of an unfulfilled wish for children with the dense atmosphere of Paris.”

The extract is like a puzzle, and possibly the novel as a whole unfolds this way, which is always fun. The soldier describes the Middle East in a beautiful, unrealistic, imagery-laden monologue, which gets very disturbing. My notes: Woah. Seems very good. I’ll read it if it makes the shortlist.

Thomas Lehr, September

Two female protagonists, one an American who dies on 9/11, the other an Iraqi who dies in a bombing three years later. Lehr’s previous novel, 42, was shortlisted for the German Book Prize in 2005 and is a bizarre scenario in which time stands still for everyone but a small group of people. The publishers say: “In densely poetic language, September tells a story about Islam, about oil, terror and war and about two women who stand for the victims of this conflict.”

And people, it’s fantastic stuff! Even the pattern the words make on the page is beautiful. Lehr avoids the traps of Orientalism, sketching a Middle East rife with sin and sensuality, myth and bathos. Contrasted with Long Island, other private calamities. My notes are strewn with “OMG”s. Odd words, odd sentences, odd punctuation. I think he makes the two women sisters. Mentally. I think they watch each other and tell the other’s story. But maybe they don’t. I really need to read this book.

Andreas Maier, Das Zimmer

A grown-up narrator recounts his childhood memories of his rather eccentric uncle. Maier’s second novel Klausen is out now in translation by Kenneth J. Northcott. I once saw Maier in the flesh and he had an unappealing Al Qaeda-style ginger beard. But don’t let that put you off. The publishers say: “Das Zimmer is both a portrait from memory and a novel, perhaps the beginning of a great family saga, a reflection on time and civilisation, on human dignity and how to maintain it.”

The language in the extract is a delight, smattered with great words that jump out at you. And it’s full of intelligent ideas and strange characters, primarily of course that uncle. It certainly made me want more – a real contender, at least for my reading pile.

Andreas Schäfer, Wir vier

A family shaken to its foundations by the murder of a son. The publishers say: “Us four lucidly, sovereignly and movingly tells the story of a trauma and its consequences. The reader cannot get away from it.”

And yes, the extract is great stuff. Infused with threat and oppressive atmosphere from beginning to end, everyday life lived with an appalling memory at the back of everybody’s mind. Traces of violence popping up everywhere, and a strong-minded mother holding it all together, just about. Deceptively simple narration, so much going on below the surface. I liked it a lot, I’ll read it if it makes the shortlist.

Thanks for this overview, Katy, and we’ll be posting more about the award as soon as the shortlist is announced. (And yes, still pulling for Maier. . . . Klausen is a damn amazing accomplishment, and this new book sounds fascinating.)

18 August 10 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The longlist for this year’s German Book Prize was announced yesterday, featuring 20 titles that seven judges selected from an overall pool of 148 books published between October 2009 and September 2010. (And including the new book from Andreas Maier, whose Klausen we recently released. Yay for Maier!)

Here’s what the judges’ spokesperson Julian Encke had to say: “We are pleased to present a longlist that covers a broad spectrum: a diversity of forms and worlds, taking readers to the German provinces, but also to Russia, Israel, the former Yugoslavia, to Paris and Prague. These are novels with original voices, social portraits and narrative experiments, sometimes very funny, but without condemning their characters.”

The six-title shortlist will be announced the morning of September 8th, and the winner will be announced on October 4th, just before the start of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

For those of you who read German, extracts from all of these titles can be downloaded free of charge from Libreka! Usually translated excerpts are available for the six finalists, but until then, us non-German-speaking readers are pretty much shit out of luck. (Although I suspect someone—Michael Orthofer?—will have brief overviews of the more notable titles.)

Anyway, here’s the longlist:

Alina Bronsky, Die schärfsten Gerichte der tatarischen Küche (Kiepenheuer & Witsch) (Bronsky’s Broken Glass Park is available from Europa Editions)

Jan Faktor, Georgs Sorgen um die Vergangenheit oder im Reich des heiligen Hodensack-Bimbams von Prag (Kiepenheuer & Witsch)

Nino Haratischwili, Juja (Verbrecher Verlag)

Thomas Hettche, Die Liebe der Väter (Kiepenheuer & Witsch)

Michael Kleeberg, Das amerikanische Hospital (DVA)

Michael Köhlmeier, Madalyn (Carl Hanser Verlag)

Thomas Lehr, September. Fata Morgana (Carl Hanser Verlag)

Mariana Leky, Die Herrenausstatterin (DuMont Buchverlag)

Nicol Ljubić, Meeresstille (Hoffmann und Campe)

Kristof Magnusson, Das war ich nicht (Verlag Antje Kunstmann)

Andreas Maier, Das Zimmer (Suhrkamp Verlag) (As mentioned above Maier’s Klausen is available from Open Letter)

Olga Martynova, Sogar Papageien überleben uns (Droschl Literaturverlag)

Martin Mosebach, Was davor geschah (Carl Hanser Verlag)

Melinda Nadj Abonji, Tauben fliegen auf (Jung und Jung Verlag)

Doron Rabinovici, Andernorts (Suhrkamp Verlag)

Hans Joachim Schädlich, Kokoschkins Reise (Rowohlt Verlag)

Andreas Schäfer, Wir vier (DuMont Buchverlag)

Peter Wawerzinek, Rabenliebe (Galiani Berlin)

Judith Zander, Dinge, die wir heute sagten (Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag)

Joachim Zelter, Der Ministerpräsident (Klöpfer & Meyer Verlag)

2 October 09 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments [1]

The German Book Prize announced their shortlist a few weeks ago, and signandsight.com now has English excerpts available. Here’s the list:

  • Rainer Merkel: “Light Years Away” (Lichtjahre Entfernt), S. Fischer Verlag
  • Herta Müller: “Everything I Own I Carry With Me” (Atemschaukel), Suhrkamp Verlag
  • Norbert Scheuer: “The Rushing of the Weir” (Überm Rauschen), C.H.Beck Verlag
  • Katrin Schmidt: You’re Not Going to Die (Du Stirbst Nicht), Kiepenheuer & Witsch Verlag
  • Clemens J. Setz: “Frequencies” (Die Frequenzen), Residenz Verlag
  • Stephan Thome : “Border Walk” (Grenzgang), Suhrkamp Verlag

The winner will be announced in 10 days, on the eve of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

24 October 08 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

A few days age we wrote about the German Book Prize Winner, Uwe Tellkamp’s Der Turm, and lamented the fact that there wouldn’t be much interest in the 1000+ page book from American or British publishers.

Well, a little birdie tells me that we were quite mistaken and that Suhrkamp is fielding a “huge wave of calls and requests from the UK” for the book.

Let’s hope that something comes of it!

If you’d like to find out more about Tellekamp, or Der Turm, click here to download a PDF about the book from the current New Books In German issue.

23 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

We’re a bit late with the news—I swear, the Book Fair will be my excuse for everything for the next three weeks at least—but Uwe Tellkamp’s Der Turm won this year’s German Book Prize. Hasn’t been a huge amount of interest from American or British publishers (surprise!) for this 1,000 page book. Michael Orthofer is one of (if not the) first American’s to review the novel giving it a solid B+:

Der Turm is set in Dresden, in the East Germany of the 1980s, then still the German Democratic Republic. The book covers the period right up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, though it moves at varying speeds across these years, lingering over particular episodes and stretches, then leaping over longer periods. [. . .]

Tellkamp offers a vast survey of East German life, even as he keeps it within relatively limited areas: school, the workplace (the hospital and the publishing house), army life. For the most part, those whose lives are described are fairly well-to-do — if not financially particularly well-off, at least relatively secure in their places, and certainly comfortable (even as that occasionally proves illusory). True, occasionally strangers are assigned a portion of their living spaces, as lines are redrawn in the houses and officialdom literally encroaches on their lives further, but most can get by relatively comfortably. Tellkamp does, however, pointedly describe the lives of the truly privileged, the nation’s favoured sons, which some of the others catch a glimpse of — an entirely different world. [. . .]

Yes, in many respects Der Turm is a glorious epic of that sad last decade of East German history, with some remarkable patches of writing and some very fine scenes. Yet it feels incomplete as a history, the pendulum swinging too far and spitefully back in a book that drips with contempt and feels too personal in its reckoning with an entire nation and system.

30 September 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

As someone commented last week, SignandSight has just posted excerpts from five of the six finalists for this year’s German Book Award. (The only one missing is Rolf Lappert’s Swimming Home, which appears to be in process.)

I think this is a very valuable resource, especially if one of the goals of the prize is to get these books translated into other languages. I’m looking forward to reading the samples and placing my bet on who’s going to win . . . (This is one of those awards you can gamble on, right?)

23 September 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

Over at the Literary Saloon, — Litblogging’s Finest Source of International News — Michael Orthofer reports on Daniel Kehlmann’s article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung railing against the German Book Prize.

I can’t read the article in the original (which can be found here), but Michael’s summary makes it seem like Kehlmann’s shooting off in fairly uninformed manner. (Which is sort of what I’ve come to expect after seeing him at the PEN World Voices Festival last year.)

Apparently he first complains that if a book isn’t on the GBP longlist, it has little chance of being reviewed. Which smacks of bullshit and a bit of a personal grudge perhaps?

But this is the best (in Michael’s translation):

And one knows — I went through it myself — that nominated authors are unofficially informed that staying away from the ceremony would lead to an automatic disqualification. Even if a book is an epochal success, if its author is not willing to swallow some sedative and physically take part in the competition, he won’t receive the prize, a decisive distinction from the National Book Award or the Booker Prize, that as a matter of course regularly are handed out to absent authors.

Er, uh, not. In fact, as Michael points out, it’s right in the NBA guidelines that not only does the author have to attend the ceremony, but he/she “must agree to participate in the Foundation’s Website-related publicity, including on-line “chats” with readers across the country.” And the promotion synergy doesn’t stop there. Also according to guidelines, publishers of the finalists have to pay $1,000 to support promotional activities, pay for their author to attend the ceremony, and purchase medallions from the National Book Foundation to affix to finalists and winning titles.

I hate to suggest that such cooperation helps increase the reach and attention of the National Book Award and may be one of the reasons that so much attention is paid to the winner . . .

I also have to say that Kehlmann’s suggestion of abolishing the longlist is silly from the point of view of a foreign publisher. The German Book Office and others do a fantastic job of getting the word out about new German titles, but nevertheless, a number of books slide right by. This longlist (and Michael’s suggestion of making the list of 160+ nominees available) provides publishers like Open Letter with another source of information. Another list of potentially great titles. Instead of eliminating the longlist, I wish someone would provide sample translations of these books. . .

24 September 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I think today is a day of follow-ups . . . I just got a message from the German Book Office that sample translations of the final three German Book Prize shortlist titles will be available on signandsight.com sometime next week.

Which is great. And according to at least one person on last week’s Editors Buzz Panel at the Deutsches Haus, the Julia Franck book is definitely going to win.

19 September 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Some English samples of the German Book Prize finalists are now available online at Signandsight.com. Specifically, they have samples available from:

  • Lady Midday (Die Mittagsfrau) by Julia Franck (excerpt);
  • Angry Sheep (Böse Schafe) by Katja Lange-Müller (excerpt);
  • Wallner Begins to Fly (Wallner beginnt zu fliegen) by Thomas von Steinaecker (excerpt).

Hopefully they’ll have excerpts of the other three finalists online soon.

12 September 07 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

The shortlist for the German Book Prize has just been announced. The winner (who gets €25,000) will be announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October.

I’m not familiar with any of these writers, but the exciting thing is that we’ll get a chance to read some English samples on signandsight.com soon. Here’s the list:

  • Die Mittagsfrau / Lady Midday by Julia Franck
  • Das bin doch ich / Isn’t that me? by Thomas Glavinic
  • Abendland / Occident by Michael Köhlmeier
  • Böse Schafe / Angry Sheep by Katja Lange-Müller
  • Der Mond und das Mädchen / The Moon and the Maiden by Martin Mosebach
  • Wallner beginnt zu fliegen / Wallner begins to fly by Thomas von Steinaecker

If you’re curious, here’s the longlist. Click here for more information about the prize.

16 August 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The longlist for the 2007 German Book Prize was announced yesterday. (See the full list after the jump.)

Here’s what spokesperson for the judges, Felicitas von Lovenberg had to say about the selection of these 20 books from the 117 submitted titles:

“Without allowing ourselves to be seduced by celebrity or distracted by the pressure of originality, we have chosen twenty titles that reflect the unusual diversity and vitality in German-language literature as it presents itself this autumn in particular.”

Good to know that they stood up to the pressure of originality. It’s always a bad sign with originality counts for something.

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