1. Madeleine LaRue: Alexander Kluge’s distinctive style often seems to resist going into English. You have translated Kluge before, and you have also translated some of his most prominent contemporaries (Thomas Bernhard, Elfriede Jelinek, Herta Müller, among others). What strikes you as unique or special about Kluge’s writing?

    Martin Chalmers: What resists going into English in Kluge? I think it’s less a question of style (though his use of legalistic language—cf. his training as a lawyer—a necessary dispassion combined with an underlying emotional response, is certainly distinctive. One can think of the boy who survives a devastating air raid shortly before the end of the war, as described in “The Air Raid on Halberstadt on 8th April 1945,” and who then spends his life as a theorist, as a writer, as a film-maker trying to come to terms with that destruction of all that is familiar, but in the knowledge of the crimes that have preceded that rather pointless air raid—an experience, of course, shared with millions of Germans and other Europeans)—well, then, less a question of style than of form, specifically Kluge’s use of short forms, an accumulation of short forms. Short forms and not simply the short story are much more central to German literature than English. The tradition perhaps begins with an admiration of Johann Peter Hebel but continues through the Brothers Grimm to Robert Walser, Kafka’s short prose, Benjamin and so on. English writing is much more bound by a division between novel and short story and has left little room for anything else, exceptions notwithstanding. And I think it’s in this accumulation of anecdote, incident, item, quotation, adaptation, (anti-)illustration, novels in pill form that the difficulty for the English-speaking reader lies (in the first instance the English-speaking publisher and critic). The difficulty is already there on the page in the layout, in the apparent lack of a narrative. Perhaps some English-speaking readers even have a difficulty taking such an “illegitimate” mixing of forms seriously as literature — as seriously as they would a novel.

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  2. newdirectionspublishing:

    In memory, on this, the anniversary of the great Nobel Prize-winning author’s death:

    “Without words, without writing and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity.” — Hermann Hesse


  3. Salman Rushdie responds to Israel’s ban of Günter Grass, via the New York Times.


  4. Maria Tatar translates one of the recently discovered Bavarian fairy tales, via Bookslut.


  5. Philip Pullman Retelling Grimm’s Fairytales

    I’m not sure this counts as translation, but Philip Pullman is retelling his favorite Grimm fairytales “in his own voice,” due to publish this September. Preordering….now. 

  6. vintageanchor:

    Today is the birthday of Wilhelm Carl Grimm (1786 – 1859), the younger of the Brothers Grimm — the best-known story tellers of European folktales. 

     Along with his brother Jacob Grimm, he popularized such stories as The Frog Prince • Cat and Mouse in Partnership • Mary’s Child • The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was • The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids • Trusty John • The Wonderful Musician • The Twelve Brothers • Brother and Sister • Rapunzel • The Three Little Men in the Wood • The Three Spinners • Hansel and Gretel • The White Snake • The Fisherman and His Wife • The Valiant Little Tailor • Cinderella • The Riddle • Little Red Riding Hood • Sleeping Beauty • Snow White • Rumpelstiltskin.

    (Source: vintageanchorbooks)

  7. literalab:

    Literary roundup: From Dresden to Dickens

    February 13 is the anniversary of the Dresden bombing that took place in 1945. The bombing continues to provoke debate and beyond its historical significance has a number of connections with literary and cultural history.

    Continue Reading

    Photo - Deutsche Fotothek, Richard Peter

  8. literalab:

    Literary roundup: Polish vampires, Russian apartment sellers and German inadequates (take your pick)

    Continue Reading


  10. hmhbooks:

    A new book from the Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass, The Box, explores the complicated yet precise contours of memory and what we learn when called upon to relive our experiences.  

    “Once upon a time there was a father who, because he had grown old, called together his sons and daughters—four, five, six, eight in number—and finally convinced them, after long hesitation, to do as he wished. Now they are sitting around a table and begin to talk . . .”

    In an audacious literary experiment, Günter Grass writes in the voices of his eight children as they record memories of their childhoods, of growing up, of their father, who was always at work on a new book, always at the margins of their lives. Memories contradictory, critical, loving, accusatory—they piece together an intimate picture of this most public of men. To say nothing of Marie, Grass’s assistant, a family friend of many years, perhaps even a lover, whose snapshots taken with an old-fashioned Agfa box camera provide the author with ideas for his work. But her images offer much more. They reveal a truth beyond the ordinary detail of life, depict the future, tell what might have been, grant the wishes in visual form of those photographed. The children speculate on the nature of this magic: was the enchanted camera a source of inspiration for their father? Did it represent the power of art itself? Was it the eye of God?

    Recalling J. M. Coetzee’s Summertime and Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, The Box is an inspired and daring work of fiction. In its candor, wit, and earthiness, it is Grass at his best.

     ”It may not be a memoir, but it is an exercise in soul-searching…this is a novel of great humility, questioning whether the measure of a life really is a life’s work… [Grass] shows a remarkable willingness to kick a hole in the usual self-importance of a prize-winning author.”
    -The New York Times Book Review

  11. hmhbooks:


    Get your hands on the international phenomenon THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER by Oliver Poetzsch today!

    Magdalena, the clever and headstrong daughter of Bavarian hangman Jakob Kuisl, lives with her father outside the village walls and is destined to be married off to another hangman’s son—except that the town physician’s son is hopelessly in love with her. And her father’s wisdom and empathy are as unusual as his despised profession. It is 1659, the Thirty Years’ War has finally ended, and there hasn’t been a witchcraft mania in decades. But now, a drowning and gruesomely injured boy, tattooed with the mark of a witch, is pulled from a river and the villagers suspect the local midwife, Martha Stechlin.

    Jakob Kuisl is charged with extracting a confession from her and torturing her until he gets one. Convinced she is innocent, he, Magdalena, and her would-be suitor to race against the clock to find the true killer. Approaching Walpurgisnacht, when witches are believed to dance in the forest and mate with the devil, another tattooed orphan is found dead and the town becomes frenzied. More than one person has spotted what looks like the devil—a man with a hand made only of bones. The hangman, his daughter, and the doctor’s son face a terrifying and very real enemy. 

    Taking us back in history to a place where autopsies were blasphemous, coffee was an exotic drink, dried toads were the recommended remedy for the plague, and the devil was as real as anything, The Hangman’s Daughter brings to cinematic life the sights, sounds, and smells of seventeenth-century Bavaria, telling the engrossing story of a compassionate hangman who will live on in readers’ imaginations long after they’ve put down the novel. 

  12. German author Oliver Poetzsch is visiting bookstores in select cities this week to celebrate the publication of The Hangman’s Daughter (translated by Lee Chadeayne). Also be sure to listen to him on the Leonard Lopate Show this Wednesday at 1PM. 

    Boswell Book Company
    2559 N. Downer Ave.
    Milwaukee, WI 53211 

    Book Passage
    51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
    Corte Madera, CA 94925

    Books Inc
    1760 4th Street
    Berkeley, CA 94710

    Third Place Books
    17171 Bothell Way NE
    Lake Forest Park, WA 98155