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Women at the Forefront of German-Language Literary Life

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A dozen publishers and translators nominate those they believe deserve special recognition for their work in publishing, writing and translating.

 

 
‘There are two German female publishers who inspired me when I set up Peirene Press here in the UK: Katharina Wagenbach-Wolff from Friedenauer Presse for her beautiful book covers and strong branding, and Antje Kunstmann from Antje Kunstmann Verlag for her courageous book choices. Antje Kunstmann is the German publisher of two Peirene authors, French Véronique Olmi and Dutch Jan van Mersbergen.’
 
Meike Ziervogel
Photo:
Roelof Bakker
Meike Ziervogel is a novelist and the publisher of Peirene Press, an award-winning publishing house specialising in contemporary foreign fiction. She is currently working on her fourth novel.
 

 
‘Translator and blogger Katy Derbyshire’s contribution to the promotion of German-language literature in the English-speaking world and to literary translation more broadly is immeasurable. Her blog love german books (lovegermanbooks.blogspot. co.uk), which is as much about contemporary Germany and life in Berlin as it is about German literature, showcases her fine journalistic talents, not to mention the unique role she has carved out for herself as cultural commentator and activist.’
 
Chantal Wright Photo: Private
Chantal Wright is a literary translator who has translated books by Zoran Drvenkar, Cornelia Funke, Andreas Steinhöfel and Yoko Tawada. She also teaches Translation Studies in Warwick University’s Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies.


Read Katy Derbyshire’s feature Women in Translation
 

 
‘I have recently discovered Undine Gruenter (1952-2002) and have so far read a collection of stories Sommergäste in Trouville (‘Summer Visitors to Trouville’, 2003) and a novel Der verschlossene Garten (‘The Enclosed Garden’, 2004), both beautifully written. With a quietly wicked sense of humour, Gruenter uses her controlled prose to nail moments of rift and slippage when people’s lives begin to slide out of control.’
 
Imogen Taylor is a freelance literary translator and academic based in Berlin. Her translations include Sascha Arango’s The Truth and Other Lies and Melanie Raabe’s The Trap. She has just won the Goethe-Institut Award for New Translations 2016 for her translation of an extract of Jackie Thomae’s Momente der Klarheit.
 

 
Verena Rossbacher’s two books – Verlangen nach Drachen and Schwätzen und Schlachten – are the books I’ve been most excited about in the past several years. Rossbacher’s writing manages to encompass a lot of seeming contradictions: funny and erudite, absurd and moving, playful and entertaining yet also serious and intricately constructed. On the one hand her work feels fresh and different, and on the other its biting humour and use of repetition hearken back to Thomas Bernhard and Swiss humourists like Franz Hohler.’
 
Anne Posten
Photo:
Mustafa Keskin
Anne Posten has translated books by Tankred Dorst, Anna Katharina Hahn, and Monika Held, among others. She teaches writing at Queens College, City University of New York and is currently translating Carl Seelig’s Walks with Walser for New Directions.
 

 
Antje Rávic Strubel, widely praised as one of Germany’s most incisive and idiosyncratic younger writers, writes with a lyrical rigor reminiscent of Joan Didion (whose translator she is) while pushing the boundaries of form and perspective to construct seductively unsettling narratives. Her novels such as Colder Layers of Air (2007) and When Days Plunge into Night (2012) explore identity, desire, memory, and the complex aftermath of the GDR’s demise.’
 
Isabel Fargo Cole is a writer and translator whose most recent translations include The Jew Car by Franz Fühmann, and both I and The Sleep of the Righteous by Wolfgang Hilbig. From 2006-2016 she co-edited No-mans-land. org, an online magazine for new German literature in English.

You can read Isabel Fargo Cole’s introduction to this issue’s poetry section
 

 
Valerie Fritsch
Photo:
Jasmin Schuller
‘Paradise, the apocalypse, love, language, the unstoppable cycle of life – Valerie Fritsch’s majestically constructed second novel ‘Winter’s Garden’, which was longlisted for the 2015 German Book Prize, showcases the virtuosity of her prose. For me, the young novelist and photo artist, whose extensive travels clearly influence her work, is absolutely one of the most exciting and daring voices in contemporary German-language literature.’
 
Jamie Searle Romanelli is founder of the Translators Association Diaspora and her literary translations include Sirius by Jonathan Crown, The Room by Andreas Maier, and The Hunter Gracchus by Franz Kafka.
 

 
Ruth Martin Photo: Private
‘It was a real pleasure to work with Ruth Martin on the English edition of Michael Köhlmeier’s Two Gentlemen on the Beach. Ruth worked closely with the author throughout and was always quick to respond to queries. Her beautifully rendered, faithful yet sensitive translation will give readers an imaginative insight into Churchill and Chaplin’s struggle with depression.’
 
Barbara Schwepcke, is a publisher at Haus Publishing, releasing English-language editions of biographies on leading international figures, as well as fiction translated from a number of languages including Arabic, Portuguese and German.

Read a review of Michael Köhlmeier’s latest novel Das Mädchen mit dem Fingerhut
 

 
Ulrike Almut Sandig Photo: Private
Ulrike Almut Sandig is one of the very brightest and multi-facetted talents on the German scene. Two books of prose and four volumes of her poetry have been published to date alongside radio plays, audio books of poetry and pop music, sound installations and poetry films. Somewhere between steam punk and exquisite craft, the lyrical, slippery, playful explorations of female subjectivity in Flamingos (2010) and Buch gegen das Verschwinden (2015) are crying out to be better known and translated.’
 
Karen Leeder is Professor of Modern German Literature at the University of Oxford. She has published widely on modern German literature, especially in the area of poetry. She is a prizewinning translator of contemporary literature including Evelyn Schlag, Raoul Schrott, Ulrike Almut Sandig, Wilhelm Schmid, Michael Krüger.
 

 
‘I’m currently translating Katja Petrowskaja’s Vielleicht Esther (‘Maybe Esther’), winner of the 2013 Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, for HarperCollins in New York. This collection of prose pieces takes the author/narrator, who lives in Berlin and now writes in German, on a journey to Kiev, Mauthausen, and Warsaw in a quest to reassemble the mosaic that is her Jewish ancestors’ past. The result is a lyrical, poignant, non-linear, and profoundly moving narrative.’
 
Shelley Frisch’s many translations from German include biographies of Nietzsche, Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and Kafka, for which she has been awarded a Modern Language Association Translation Prize and the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize; she is now a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle award for her translation of Karin Wieland’s Dietrich and Riefenstahl: Hollywood, Berlin, and a Century in Two Lives.
 

 
Karen Nölle Photo: Private
Karen Nölle has translated around ninety books from English since the 1980s. She focuses on female authors, including Annie Dillard, Doris Lessing, Alice Munro, Barbara Trapido and others. ‘My line of work is the written word,’ her website states. Karen also works as an editor and is the co-publisher of edition fünf, a small press dedicated to fine literature by women. She was elected ‘Bücherfrau des Jahres’ (‘Woman in Publishing of the Year’) in 2008.’
 
Anne Stokes translates poetry and prose (fiction and non-fiction). Sarah Kirsch, Ice Roses: Selected Poems (Carcanet: Manchester, 2014) was shortlisted for the Weidenfeld Literary Translation Prize and for the Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize in 2015.
 

 
edition fünf was founded in 2010 by literary agent Silke Weniger, with translator and editor Karen Nölle as co-publisher. They publish up to five titles a year, many of them in translation, including new translations of rediscovered works. Two German-language novels edition fünf particularly recommends are Hella Eckert, Hanomag (edition fünf 2014, 1st edition 1998) and Gina Kaus, Die schwestern Kleh (edition fünf 2013, 1st edition 1933).’
 
Rachel McNicholl Photo: Private
Rachel McNicholl is a freelance translator and editor based in Dublin. She has translated work by writers including Anita Augustin, Lydia Mischkulnig and Gabriele Wohmann. Her latest publication is sometimes i lie and sometimes i don’t, short stories by Nadja Spiegel (Dalkey Archive Press, 2015).
 

 
Aviva Verlag in Berlin was founded in 1997 with a mission to go beyond the mainstream. The press has a strong focus on rediscovering early twentiethcentury women writers such as Lili Grün or Ruth Landshoff-Yorck from the 1920s, and Annemarie Weber from the 1960s. Alongside literary fiction, Aviva also publish reportage including Nellie Bly’s 1889 voyage around the world in seventy-two days, biographies of notable women and volumes on women artists. Kerstin Młynkec’s first and only novel Drachentochter (‘Dragon’s Daughter’, 2004) is a picaresque tour de force. The fictional autobiography of an unnamed woman, an outsider figure born into the Sorbian minority in the GDR – all of whose identities are deconstructed by the narrator – it is scathingly satirical, linguistically inventive and bitterly comic.’
 
Lyn Marven Photo: Private
Lyn Marven is Senior Lecturer in German at the University of Liverpool. Her translations include the collection Berlin Tales and Maike Wetzel’s Long Days.
 
 
 
Compiled by Laura Macartney.
 

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