Goethe Book Club Goethe Book Club: The Tidings of the Trees, by Wolfgang Hilbig (1992; tr. 2018)

The Tidings of the Trees © Two Lines Press The Tidings of the Trees © Two Lines Press

Tue, 10/19/2021

6:30 PM Eastern

Hybrid: Goethe-Institut Washington & Online

2018 translation by Isabel Fargo Cole

Read and discuss works by contemporary German authors in this series hosted by the Goethe-Institut Washington. All books can be read in recent English translation or in the German original; our discussion will be in English. Led in October by guest facilitator Raleigh Joyner, Goethe-Institut Washington’s program coordinator, this book club focuses on contemporary fiction and will explore experiences and thoughts about the text.

In cooperation with the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the Catholic University of America.

Please Note: In order to participate in the hybrid discussion (carried out over Zoom and in person), registrants must obtain access to the novel on their own. Hard copies of the novel can be ordered through multiple vendors online; the eBook is also available for download to Kindle, iPad, and other digital reading platforms.


The Tidings of the Trees (Die Kunde von den Bäumen) by Wolfgang Hilbig (1992, translated by Isabel Fargo Cole in 2018)

Where once was a beautiful wood now stands a desolate field smothered in ash and garbage, and here a young man named Waller has terrorizing encounters with grotesque figures named “the garbagemen.” As Waller becomes fascinated with these desperate men who eke out a survival by rooting through their nation’s waste, he imagines they are also digging through its past as their government erases its history and walls itself off from the outside world.

One of celebrated German author Wolfgang Hilbig’s most accessible and resonant works, The Tidings of the Trees is about the politics that rip us apart, the stories we tell for survival, and the absolute importance of words to nations and people. Featuring some of Hilbig’s most striking, poetic, and powerful images, this flawless novella perfectly balances politics and literature.
RSVP Wolfgang Hilbig (1941–2007) was one of the major German writers to emerge in the postwar era. Though raised in East Germany, he proved so troublesome to the authorities that in 1985 he was granted permission to emigrate to the West. The author of more than twenty books, he received virtually all of Germany’s major literary prizes, capped by the 2002 Georg Büchner Prize, Germany’s highest literary honor.

Isabel Fargo Cole grew up in New York City, received a BA from the University of Chicago in 1995, and has lived in Berlin ever since as a writer and translator. Her translation of Wolfgang Hilbig’s Old Rendering Plant received the Kurt & Helen Wolff Prize in 2018, and her other translations of work by Wolfgang Hilbig and Franz Fühmann have been nominated for several awards. Since 2005 she has published short fiction and essays in German, and her debut novel Die grüne Grenze (Edition Nautilus, 2017), was nominated for the Klaus Michael Kühne Prize and the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair. Her second novel, Das Gift der Biene, was published by Edition Nautilus in 2019 and selected for the 2019 LiteraTour Nord. From 2006-2016, she co-edited no man’s land, an online magazine for new German literature in English. In 2013, she was a co-organizer of the initiative “Writers Against Mass Surveillance.”


Discussion of Hilbig's novel will take place in hybrid form via Zoom and at the Goethe-Institut Washington on Tuesday, October 19, at 6:30pm Eastern. Please RSVP via Eventbrite in order to receive discussion prompts and the Zoom invite link.

Discussion prompts from moderator Raleigh Joyner will be emailed to all participants RSVP'd via Eventbrite in advance of the discussion. The Zoom invite and additional directions/tips for accessing the Zoom discussion will be emailed to all participants no less than 48 hours before the discussion begins. The discussion will take place in English.