30 May 2010

"songs and poems - or sentences, as i call them" (m. donhauser)

last night i attended a great poetry reading at the literaturhaus berlin, the highlight of which was a reading by oswald egger, the first-ever winner of the recently awarded oskar pastior prize. that prize is a cool prize for two reasons: 1) in his lifetime, oskar pastior saved every penny for a foundation that was meant to financially support 2) experimental, innovative poets. oswald easily lived up to this criterion, as what he read fortright sounded like sylvia plath on LSD: "Ich igelte mich ein wie ein Iltisknauf", "so schopf-, so schädelblanke Felsen", "Ich sah durch die Toten nur Sonne und Knochen, nichts sonst". while oswald's imagery was richer than anything else i had heard in a long time, and while his recital was fantastic, i thought he did miss a timely ending. our minds spun in spite of his (sometimes probably unintendedly) humorous passages, so that following his verbal detours became increasingly difficult.

michael donhauser, who was second to read, had a better gut feeling there. his reading was to the point and sincere. like last time at the lyrikerempfang, it seemed he had dislocated the alphabet in order for it to become landscapes that recall own memories. (work sample.) 

franz josef czernin, who had been the first poet to read, struggled with turning the old idea of the four elements (that he chose to wrap in the old corset of the sonnet) into something modern. a highlight: "Mein Schauen ging (...) nicht verloren." thereafter, he presented his edits of three more poems in a slide show. this was very interesting to see at first, but i found that the novelty of the idea wore off quickly - probably because he had up to fifty slides to show for each poem; or maybe because he flicked through them so fast that even when you wanted to follow his wordplay, you couldn't.

my overall verdict: a worthwile, interesting reading.

29 May 2010

reading tonight: eggers, donhauser, czernin

at the literaturhaus berlin. 8 pm. more info here.

28 May 2010

german language difficult language - how is it that so few german novels get translated?

yesterday night i attend a panel discussion on the very broad topic of german translations at the literaturwerkstatt berlin. i'll do my best to give you a quick roundup here.

the discussants were katy derbyshire, who is a professional tranlsator, tilman rammstedt, who won the bachmannpreis 2008 and made this awesome video about his winning story Der Kaiser von China, helge malchow, who is the CEO at publishing house kiepenheuer & witsch (he brought along hist best mate maxim biller), and hans-ulrich treichel who is one of the three heads of the deutsche literaturinstitut leipzig (DLL) and a rather famous author in his own right. moderated by literary critic hubert winkels, who is part of the bachmannpreis 2010 jury, the panel tried to answer the question why so few german publications penetrate the international book market. this question was not answered, of course, but the discussion was still interesting to follow.

malchow explained that the cultural eradication and deprivation during and after the second world war might have caused a backlog with the german people that ultimately led to a great openness regarding all sorts of art and literature. after all, malchow estimated, 50% of KiWi's programme are made up of works written by foreign authors. if it's so easy for them to get published here, why are not half of all published books on foreign markets authored by germans?

certainly not because writers like rammstedt, whose novel has been translated into "six or seven" languages, come to the conclusion that, apart from accompanying commercial aspects, translations "aren't desirable". and probably not because as katy suggested, "german books that aren't about nazis or secret agents just don't interest foreign publishers". they aren't interested, because the limited horizon of our younger authors, as paraphrased by treichel, does not allow for what malchow was looking for in new voices, originality and life experience. (that's what they always say, isn't it, until someone like helene hegemann turns up!) "our authors come to DLL right from school", treichel said, "they shouldn't worry about the literary industry. and anyway, as yet not one newbie has come to me with the desire to be well-known internationally". wow, i thought, these are surprising points from someone dandling one of the largest cradles of german literary talent! only very few people my age that i know have something i would call a locally limited horizon, and most of us put great effort into building international careers. we are interested in many things, and - if i may say so - a far cry from the ethno-centric mindset that might have shaped the thinking of today's average sixty year old.

the assumptions that newer german literature has nothing say just cannot be true. instead, publishers' decisions are influenced by different factors, a kind that, sadly, my generation knows all too well: soft skills and networking! (at this point, bachmannpreis nominee dorothee elmiger taps me on the shoulder, asking whether she could take a look at my event programme? uhm, sure.)

often times translators themselves suggest books they like to their editors, making costly assessment reports redundant for publishers. or it is one particular book that opens a market, like umberto eco's The Name of the Rose that paved the way into the world market for other works of italian fiction.

today, even for internationally established german writers the going is rough: handke, for example, sells only 4.000 novels a year in the US, and these are likely to be the ones that belong to universities and public libraries, malchow assumes. he explains how it is next to impossible to establish accomplished younger writers like christian kracht overseas - not to mention newcomers.

treichel says he once heard people say a book needed to literally travel in order for it to become interesting for the international market (this made me think of crammed and dusty second hand traveller's book stores in south east asia), but we germans "aren't writing to entertain people", after all.

which brings right up the question that i have been asking myself all along: why is no one talking content? katy tried, of course - but has it never occurred to anyone that the world might just not be interested in our often sprawling, precocious content? is intellectualism un-dress up-able?

at least in the US, the number of european translations declines steadily. quite possibly, this has to do at least partly with the global tendency to buy, and thus publish, fewer books. readers nowadays are very likely to gather whatever they're interested in from the internet - aided by services like google books, initiatives like Bachmann Goes Europe and blogs like mine that target culturally interested people across borders (even though my content is berlin-heavy admittedly). also, we must not forget that while the US population is almost four times bigger than ours and therefore should haveat least the same quota of published writers we do, the US already in 2005 only published less than double the number of books than germany did in 2007 (source). [more evidence on my musings here.]

as you can see, the matter is complicated... and who's going to translate this article into german now?

27 May 2010

next reading: klagenfurt

as part of the supporting programme of the Tage der deutschsprachigen Literatur 2010, i'll be reading from my novella Andosina in klagenfurt on 25 june 2010. together with martin fritz who is partly responsible for the austrian text ohne reiter (or check out his twitter). i'm looking forward to this event and would love to see you there at 7.30 pm! more info on our reading here.

24 May 2010

17 May 2010

new to WOAW: Flattr !

this morning while sitting at the doctor's, i received my Flattr invite. i still mustn't type with my right hand, so please just watch the video above to find out what Flattr is all about. i think it's a fantastic service and hope many of you will appreciate the idea, sign up and share the love!

16 May 2010

(picture taken from postsecret.)

09 May 2010

WOAW @ Mädchenmannschaft

How could I miss the posting of my own WWW Girls interview over at the Mädchenmannschaft on 15 April 2010? Oh well. Thank you for having me, Helga!

(picture taken from postsecret.)

07 May 2010

once more with feeling

DIE ZEIT has an impressively well-written, albeit typically arrogant, reactive statement by helene hegemann (or here). let's hope the woman is seeing a capable therapist - her life seems a little too much.

06 May 2010


i have this, so i'm forced to take a break. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice. i mustn't type until further notice.

04 May 2010

new blog + reading

KOOKbook's jan böttcher and andreas töpfer have started their own blog.

if you're free thursday night, you might want to check out this reading. guests: martina hefter, johanna straub, serhij zhadan. music by jan böttcher.

8 pm, kvartira 62, lübbener str. 18, berlin - kreuzberg, 3 €