View into the german literary scene

Foto: Goethe-Insitut/Loredana La Rocca Foto: Goethe-Insitut/Loredana La Rocca Smart Thinking: Translators, writers and experts in the cultural sciences present evaluations, analyses and background information on the situation of German-language literature in Central Eastern Europe.
    Christoph Bartmann © Christoph Bartmann

    Books creating buzz

    By Christoph Bartmann
    In this autumn of discontent, we talk about politics far more than we used to, at home, with friends or at work. Especially about the triumph of right-wing populism, resentment and new nationalism, not just here and there, but practically world-wide. The time we spend on such matters reduces the amount of time we have to talk about books. Unless a book can be read as an answer to contemporary questions, which is unusual. Books that accompany such debates or even trigger them are rarely novels, but tend to be works of non-fiction. The most recent example of such a book in Germany was unexpected. Already seven years old when it was published, Returning to Reims (2016) is a book from France in which sociologist and Foucault biographer Didier Éribon’s reflects on his origins in working-class Reims, his cultural liberation from this milieu as a student in Paris and, decades later, the shock of realising that “ordinary people” in Reims have fallen prey to the National Front. Éribon’s essay was read in Germany as a commentary on the current situation. Here was a book that shows how the lurch to the right fits in with his own experience while at the same time finding terms to explain the phenomenon.More ...
    Jakub Ehrenberger © Jakub Ehrenberger

    Books that make it across borders

    By Jakub Ehrenberger
    There were times when books had to be smuggled across borders because they could not be published within the country. Fortunately, those days are long gone, much as certain politicians might wish to bring back fences and walls. More than a quarter of a century after the political transformations, the book markets of the Central Eastern European and Baltic states are free. Free in the traditional meaning of the word, at least, since censorship of a kind persists, namely censorship of the market, of turnover, of commercial success. Will this novel interest our readers? Does that story have a chance in the book market here?More ...
    Berthold Franke © Berthold Franke

    “Books Creating Buzz”

    By Berthold Franke
    As well having undeniably strenuous sides, being a member of a literature jury also has its pleasant aspects. It means being in a kind of state of emergency, during which extensive reading may be made into a full-time occupation for a while. As a juror of the German Book Prize, however, you then experience an interesting shift in point of view. The world and reality are suddenly perceived as it were from the perspective of current German-language prose, a very exciting project. For what this enables one to see is a second-hand reality, a reality mediated by literature, enabling one to gain metaphorical distance from the tangible while giving very special access to reality through artistic-narrative concentration.More ...
    György Dragomán © György Dragomán

    Borders and Stories

    By György Dragomán
    I’m sitting on a train penning these lines. We’ll soon be crossing the Hungarian-Austrian border. I’m taking my book to Salzburg, where I’ll be reading from the German edition of The Bone Fire. One might even say that my book is taking me across the border again, as it has done so often in recent years, to present itself to readers together with me.
    The novel is set in Transylvania. It takes an internal perspective, giving a very personal and graphic account of the first turbulent years after the fall of the Communist dictatorship.More ...
    Richard Kämmerlings © Martin U. K. Lengemann

    Spectres of the past, prolepsis of the future:
    German-language literature 2015

    By Richard Kämmerlings
    In August 2015, an old hit by the band Die Ärzte topped the charts. First released in 1993, Schrei nach Liebe, an anti-Nazi punk song produced in response to xenophobic rioting and attacks in the early nineties, made a completely unexpected comeback. Place names such as Hoyerswerda, Mölln, Solingen and Rostock-Lichtenhagen remain a symbol of a dark chapter in post-war history to this day; shamefully, new names have recently been added to the list.More ...
    Lothar Müller © Rolf Walter

    Coming out of its shell – Why it is a good thing that the German literary language was never home alone

    By Lothar Müller
    Hardly anyone knows the name of the town that features in the title of the novel Zeiden, im Januar (Zeiden, in January). It is in Romania; its local name is Codlea, and in Hungarian it is called Feketehalom. When you have finished reading the novel, you will know that there is plenty of woodland around the town, that it is located at the foot of a hill and that the language of those who called the shots in the surrounding area has sometimes been Hungarian, sometimes Romanian and sometimes German. As one reads, one might suspect that sagas merge across language barriers in the narrative’s remote small world.More ...
    Jochen Schmidt © Tim Jockel

    What did I have to learn after the political transformation of 1989?

    By Jochen Schmidt

    – That you could also order a steak “medium”.
    – My new five-figure postcode.
    – The colour spectrum of rubbish bins.
    – To eat a doner kebab with one hand while riding a bicycle.More ...
    Alexander Cammann © Alexander Cammann

    Made in East Germany

    By Alexander Cammann
    After collapsing it became a great success story: the long-defunct GDR, that in retrospect so very strange, ramshackle little state that was dispatched into historical oblivion by its own people in 1989 is a blooming cultural landscape to this day. 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany has not only a Federal President and Chancellor from the east.More ...
    Christoph Schröder © Christoph Schröder

    “You must be a happy, carefree country”

    “You must be a happy, carefree country”. This sentence was pronounced by the lector of a not insignificant French literary press at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The lector was referring to this year’s shortlist for the German Book Prize, and his statement was quite intentionally meant to be ambiguous. By Christoph SchröderMore ...
    Alida Bremer © Alida Bremer

    Europe reads:
    Literary events and writers’ meetings in the European context

    Literature provides insights into the lives of other people, and into the social situations of foreign lands and past times. If Europe is to be not only an economic community whose self-image can be severely undermined by a financial crisis, but a continent criss-crossed by cultural and interpersonal connections, literature in particular can be of major significance for this networking.More ...
    Thomas Wohlfahrt © Thomas Wohlfahrt

    Poetry is Booming!

    That is borne out by a growing number of poetry events and festivals in most European countries.
    Regarding the low sales of poetry books, however, little has changed. In Germany, for example, poetry accounts for less than one per cent of the book trade’s total turnover according to information from the booksellers and publishers association.More ...
    Michal Hvorecký © Michal Hvorecký

    The Dieter Bohlenisation¹ of the book market

    About the radical change, German literature and the entire book market have undergone in the last two decades.
    By Michal HvoreckýMore ...
    Katharina Raabe ©

    Central European literature in German–language publishing houses

    Contrary to a common prejudice, books from Central Europe have a firmly established place in German-language publishing houses. It continues to be regarded as difficult to discover and publish a Hungarian, Polish, Czech, Slovak or Slovenian author. But there are readers at literary publishing houses who use their powers of persuasion to ensure that a chance is given not only to Dave Eggers and Jonathan Safran Froer, Monica Ali and Aravind Ariga.More ...
    Dr. phil. Helmut Böttiger

    The Development of German Literary Criticism

    Literary criticism cannot be separated from the development of journalism. And a fundamental paradigm change has taken place in journalism in recent years. Until a few years ago, the stock phrase used at press conferences held just before any major event was, “We welcome high-ranking guests from the fields of politics, industry and culture.” Now the wording is, “We welcome high-ranking guests from the fields of politics, industry and the media.”More ...
    Jörg Plath

    Eastern European literatures seen from a German perspective

    Ex oriente lux? No, that used to be the case, more than 100 years ago when exhausted Western Europeans were hoping that Western thinking might be healed by Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. In post-Utopian times, expectations of Eastern European literature are more modest.More ...
    Lerke von Saalfeld, Germany © Lerke von Saalfeld

    Taking stock of the grand socialist project 20 years on

    In books published in Germany in 2009, twenty years after the end of the Eastern bloc, recollections of the fall of the Berlin Wall dominated coffee-table books, diaries, eye-witness accounts and literary statements.More ...
    Ina Hartwig, Germany © Georg Kumpfmüller

    Capturing The Present

    20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, German authors are once again beginning to narrate with great self-assurance. Von Literaturkritikerin Ina HartwigMore ...