11:00 am: Katy Derbyshire and Danny Bowles, “Chances of German Translations in the US"
According to the Translation Database at Publishers Weekly, 2018 was the second year in a row when the total number of translated works of fiction and poetry published in the U.S. declined, 606 titles compared to the peak of 666 titles in 2016. This is a tiny percentage of the total number of books published annually in the U.S. (around 300.000). Contrast that with Germany: in 2016, 9,882 new translations were published in Germany, 13.6 percent of new releases, as reported in the Frankfurter Buchmesse “Books and the book trade in 2017 (2016 figures)” report. To this day, German-language readers lead the world in published translations. Authors like J.K. Rowling and Jojo Moyes top both German and American bestseller lists, but it’s rare for a German author to top charts in the US. Why does this cultural imbalance persist? A discussion by two literary translators.
© Anja Pietsch
translates contemporary German writers including Olga Grjasnowa and Clemens Meyer among others.
© Lee Pellegrini
Daniel Bowles is
Assistant Professor of German Studies at Boston College. His most recent translation, The Dead by Christian Kracht (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018), appeared in paperback in July 2019.
1:00 pm: Olga Grjasnowa, Katy Derbyshire: City of Jasmine (Gott ist nicht schüchtern)
When Hammoudi, a young surgeon based in Paris, returns to Syria to renew his passport, he only expects to stay there a few days. But the authorities refuse to let him leave, and Hammoudi finds himself caught up in the fight against the regime. Meanwhile, budding actress Amal has also joined the protests against the government and her own father, by whom she feels betrayed. Realizing that they will never again be safe in their homeland, Amal and her boyfriend Youssef decide to flee to Europe in a desperate bid to survive. The two protagonists’ stories eventually come together when they meet in Berlin, where Amal and Youssef have started a new life together. City of Jasmine is an intimate and striking novel that offers real insight into the horrors and inhumanity of war, whilst also focusing on the humanity of the protagonists, marking Olga Grjasnowa as one of the most talented and admired young authors working in Germany today.
© René Fietzek
was born in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1984. Since then she has lived in Poland, Russia, Israel and Turkey. When she was 12, she moved to Germany, eventually graduating from the German Institute for Literature/Creative Writing in Leipzig. For her acclaimed debut novel Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt she received the Klaus-Michael Kühne Preis as well as the Anna Seghers-Preis. Her latest novel, Gott ist nicht schüchtern
, just appeared in English translation by Katy Derbyshire as City of Jasmine
© Anja Pietsch
is an award-winning London-born translator who has lived in Berlin for many years. She co-hosts a monthly translation lab and the bi-monthly Dead Ladies Show. Katy translates contemporary German writers including Olga Grjasnowa, Clemens Meyer, Heike Geissler, and Jo Lendle.
3:00 pm: Thomas Pletzinger, Kurt Fendt: The Great Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki is a superstar in Germany – but in the US, he is “Saint Dirk”. The writer Thomas Pletzinger met him in Dallas. In Germany, Dirk Nowitzki is more well-known than the game he plays. He’s famous because he’s famous. He’s been doing ads for a bank and an athletic brand for years. He’s been a guest on Germany’s most popular talk show. In the US, Nowitzki is a real superstar. He is one of the best players in a traditional American game. The fans in Dallas love Nowitzki; the opponent’s fans fear him.
© Juliane Henrich
was born in 1975 and grew up in Hagen, then the basketball capital of Germany. His career as a professional player ended before it even began. He lives in Berlin, where he writes and watches basketball games. After his first novel Funeral for a Dog (2008; translation Norton 2011), he spent one season with the professional basketball team Alba Berlin for his nonfiction book Gentlemen, We Are Living on the Edge (Kiepenheuer & Witsch 2012). For his book on Dirk Nowitzki, he spent seven years on the road with the recently retired basketball star, focusing on the world behind the spotlight, between airports, dusty gyms, and Nowtizki’s house in Dallas.
© Kurt Fendt
teaches digital humanities and media studies subjects and a range of upper-level German Studies courses in Global Studies and Languages. He is also the Director of the Active Archives Initiative. Before coming to MIT in 1993, Fendt was Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Linguistics at the University of Bern in Switzerland, where he established the Media Learning Center for the Humanities and earned his Ph.D. in modern German literature with a thesis on hypertext and text theory.
5:00 pm: Susan Neiman, Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook: Learning from the Germans
As an increasingly polarized America fights over the legacy of racism, Susan Neiman, author of the contemporary philosophical classic Evil in Modern Thought, asks what we can learn from the Germans about confronting the evils of the past. In the wake of white nationalist attacks, the ongoing debate over reparations, and the controversy surrounding Confederate monuments and the contested memories they evoke, Susan Neiman’s Learning from the Germans delivers an urgently needed perspective on how a country can come to terms with its historical wrongdoings. Neiman is a white woman who came of age in the civil rights–era South and a Jewish woman who has spent much of her adult life in Berlin. Working from this unique perspective, she combines philosophical reflection, personal stories, and interviews with both Americans and Germans who are grappling with the evils of their own national histories.
© Cindy Konig
is the director of the Einstein Forum. Her previous books, which have been translated into many languages, including Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy; The Unity of Reason; and Slow Fire: Jewish Notes from Berlin. She also writes cultural and political commentary for diverse media in the United States, Germany, and Great Britain. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Neiman studied philosophy at Harvard and the Free University of Berlin, and was a professor of philosophy at Yale and Tel Aviv Universities. She is the mother of three grown children, and lives in Berlin.
© Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook
Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook
is a German and American national and the founding Executive Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), which examines the challenges to negotiation and statecraft in the 21st century. In January 2018, she was named Executive Director of the Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship.