DIE GERMANISTIN: Riveting Forays into German-Language Literature by Sheridan Marshall: March 2024. Granta Deutschland

Granta magazine’s ‘Deutschland’ issue is an absolute treat for Germanophiles. Editor Thomas Meaney’s introduction considers the state of play in German literature since the Second World War, as well as Germany’s contemporary political landscape. He notes the pre-eminence of post-war German cinema in claiming the avant-garde artistic limelight, as well as the tendency for German-language literature from outside Germany – from Austria, Switzerland, and Romania – to offer a more thorough critical interrogation of post-war German culture and society than domestic literature. Meaney suggests that we are currently living in ‘a golden age of German translators into English,’ which is a wonderful characterisation of the German-language literary translation scene for those of us who work within it, and is certainly embodied in the talented group of translators who have contributed to this volume.

Having bemoaned the vanilla conformity and predictability of the German literary mainstream, Meaney’s selection of authors aims to showcase the vitality and expressiveness of the country’s most skilful literary voices, who are assiduously swimming against the current. Alexander Kluge’s astute reflections on contemporary German life, Today We Just Say Germany, translated by Peter Kuras, remind me of a Germanic Alan Bennett for their shared ability to combine seemingly mundane quotidian observations and acerbic wit with a profound sense of philosophical enquiry. Reading Kluge makes me feel guilty for not getting round to including his literature in my PhD thesis on the literary remembrance of the Holocaust years ago, as I had originally intended to do: two hefty volumes of his remain shamefully unread on my bookshelves, but I will definitely make time for them now.

Nell Zink’s essay, ‘Living with Germanness’ made me laugh out loud several times, beginning with her assertion: ‘I moved to Germany to get away from attractive men.’ She goes on to qualify this statement, explaining her desire to move away from the time-consuming polyamorous set-up she had established in the US to a place where she would have more time to focus on her writing. I am now very keen to read more of her work and have just messaged my book club to suggest her latest novel, Avalon (2022), as our next read.

An extract from Leif Randt’s novel, Allegro Pastell (2020),is flawlessly translated by Ruth Martin, and offers a compelling view of thirty-something life in twenty-first century Berlin, with characters who personify a number of the Germanic character traits identified by Zink in her essay. Shida Bazyar provides a radically different view of life in contemporary Germany in ‘Model Country,’ an extract from her debut novel, The Nights are Quiet in Tehran (2016), also translated by Ruth Martin (with a complete translation due out later this year). Bazyar explores the multi-faceted cultural disorientation experienced by a young Iranian immigrant to Germany. I enjoyed seeing Shida Bazyar and Ruth Martin in conversation at the Goethe-Institut London last month, and you can read about their discussion in my previous ELNet blog post. 

I heartily recommend Granta’s ‘Deutschland’ issue as an excellent resource for exploring German literature: it is a beautifully put together magazine in which each piece contributes to an impressive collage of the current literary landscape in Germany. I have only skimmed the surface here, but do take a look at the magazine and explore it in full. Some of the pieces I have mentioned are freely available to read online, and there are a number of additional articles in the online edition which complement the printed magazine.

By Sheridan Marshall

Sheridan Marshall works as a translator from German into English, and as Editorial Consultant for New Books in German. She was Deputy Editor of The Austrian Riveter.

Read previous posts in Die Germanistin series:

DIE GERMANISTIN: Riveting Forays into German-Language Literature by Sheridan Marshall: January 2024. Shida Bazyar talks to Ruth Martin

DIE GERMANISTIN: Riveting Forays into German-Language Literature by Sheridan Marshall: December 2023. Buch Wien

DIE GERMANISTIN: Riveting Forays into German-Language Literature by Sheridan Marshall: November 2023. Interview with Christine Koschmieder (at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2023)

DIE GERMANISTIN: Riveting Forays into German-Language Literature by Sheridan Marshall: Frankfurt Book Fair 2023

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