Promotion of German literature and its translation New Books in German – the 20th anniversary of a unique literary project

NBG Covers
Photo: Goethe-Institut London/Magnus Pölcher

Twenty years ago an initiative of the many associates inhabiting the worlds of publishing, books and culture led to the founding of a unique project.  One of the project’s original co-founders looks back to those decisive spring and summer weeks of 1996.

Regine Friederici remembers well those times in the mid-1990s: “The number of translations from German had reduced significantly and British as well as American publishers seldom had editors who could recommend titles from German-speaking countries for translation”.  As the Head of Information and Library Services at the Goethe-Institut London, Regine, together with her colleague Helga Wilderotter-Ikonomou, was responsible for the promotion of German literature and its translation.

Regine Friederici and Rosemary Smith Foto: Goethe-Institut London

Colleagues from the Goethe-Institut, the Translators‘ Association, the British Centre for Literary Translation and the Austrian, German and Swiss embassies had been observing this development with great concern and sought to find ways to inform publishers about interesting new German language titles on the market.  The German Embassy invited these parties to a meeting at the Goethe-Institut London on June 18, 1996.

At this meeting it was decided to launch a new publication which would contain book reviews and recommendations for translations of new German titles, and be sent directly to publishers.  The task of coming up with a concept for such a magazine was given to a working group consisting of Regine Friederici, plus Rosemary Smith and Gordon Fielden of the Translators’ Association, Terry Hale from the British Centre for Literary Translation, and the literary agent Tanya Howarth.  The German Embassy, Pro Helvetia and the Austrian embassy pledged to contribute financial support.

Terry Hale Photo: Goethe-Institut London/Magnus Pölcher

As a first step German publishers were asked to send their planned new publications – in book format or manuscript – to the Goethe-Institut Library.  The timing of the planned publication should coincide with the launching of new titles on the German book market at the Leipzig Book Fair in spring and the Frankfurt Book Fair in autumn.  Tanja Howarth brought together the working group and young designers who worked on the layout for the first issue of New Books in German.

When the first edition of the series appeared in spring 1997, none of the parties involved dared to hope that New Books in German would be so successful in Great Britain, the USA and more recently in Spanish translation.
 
 
About New Books in German:

The biannual New Books in German (NBG) magazine is aimed at editors working in British and American publishing houses, and supports them by providing a selection of new German titles for translation. The spring edition appears in time for the London Book Fair and the autumn edition coincides with the Frankfurt Book Fair.  There are 4,500 copies of the printed version of the magazine which are also sent to translators, bookshops, universities and libraries and enables its readers to gain an overview of newly published literature and non-fiction. The contents are also made available on the magazine’s website.
 

Have you heard of New Books in German?  Do you have a favourite translation of German into English?  We would love to hear from you!