InTranslation is pleased to be collaborating for the fifth time with the New Literature from Europe (NLE) Festival, which took place November 6-9 in New York. Our November issues in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 were likewise dedicated to the festival and its participating authors.
Our current issue features translations of fiction and nonfiction prose by this year’s authors from Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Poland, and Romania.
For more information about the festival, its events, and its partners, visit: http://newlitfromeurope.org.
When I first read Bernhard Aichner’s Austrian crime novel Woman of the Dead, I found it a real page-turner. He sets up his heroine, Blum, so that she looks like a villain at first, avenging herself on the parents who adopted her solely so that she could carry on their family business, and who never understood a child’s need for affection. Then, once the happiness she has found in family life is destroyed by the murder of her police officer husband Mark, the reader comes to sympathize with her more and more. She finds a purpose in taking on the case that led to his death, continuing his unofficial investigations into a particularly sadistic group of killers and rapists exploiting Eastern European immigrants, and the storyline ingeniously unravels.
By the end I was rooting for her. Bernhard’s narrative skill shows in all kinds of ways, such as the practical details of an undertaker’s work, which he learned firsthand for this book. Most of all, however, its sheer readability lies in the heroine’s sense of natural justice. Her quarry includes such pillars of the community as a priest, a fashionable photographer, and a local politician. But Blum takes out only the truly guilty. One of those three, for instance, is a thoroughly unpleasant man, but not in fact a core member of the group she is pursuing, and she lets him go.
Then, in translating, I had the chance to appreciate Bernhard’s writing all over again. I like translating dialogue, and there is plenty of it here: short, snappy exchanges in between the passages of straight narrative. Those are in the historic present tense, which I also like for its immediacy. Bernhard uses it for most of the story, with occasional flashbacks in the ordinary past tense.
I admit that I was surprised when I found out that Woman of the Dead was the first of a trilogy, and wondered how, with so many main characters dead by the end of it, the story could continue. But Bernhard gave me a copy of the second novel, fresh off the press, when we met in London in June this year, and all I can say is that you’d be surprised–I was.
– Anthea Bell
Author Elias Schneitter masters quite supremely the dramatic art of portraying the overlooked and the apparently petty and trivial. This is particularly true of Schneitter’s anthology of short narratives entitled Karl: A Thousand Years of Austria. The story featured here is all about “Judge Georgie” who in a very revealing monologue points the accusatory finger at the world, complaining about everything in general and Austria (otherwise referred to in Austria as Karl), foreigners, the government, and the slugs in his garden. He is not a judge by profession but rather a notorious grumbler who never minces words and freely gives vent to his many blind prejudices. He always blames others for the unfortunate twists and turns his life has taken, never questioning his own decisions or views. The story of Judge Georgie is one of self-deception and self-justification. It is just one of several internal monologues that make up Schneitter’s anthology, which also features “Ernst,” who reflects on his former career on a cruise liner, and “Walter,” a hippie in military uniform. Schneitter is very much interested in the “man on the street” and the contradictions that define him. He describes his characters with laconic wit, but always treats them with respect and empathy.
Elias Schneitter was born and grew up in Zirl in Tyrol, Austria. After completing his schooling in Stams, he had a variety of jobs including office clerk, canoeing teacher in Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota, project manager for Ho-Ruck, and employee for the Austrian social security system. Today, he works as a freelance author. He is co-founder of the international literature festival Sprachsalz in Hall, Tyrol and head of the small publishing house Edition-baes.
Schneitter’s first publications started appearing in 1974, mainly in literary magazines (Fenster, Rampe, wespennest, protokolle, projektil) and as radio plays. His first book, Geflügelte worte, was published in 1979. In 2014, he will be presented with the Kathy Acker Award for his commitment to promoting international literature, above all between the USA and the German-speaking world.
– Isabelle Esser
Lily’s Impatience is a family story. Lily, a 24-year-old student, leaps to her death from a bridge. Her father, architect Sebastian Zinnwald, stops working and ensconces himself in his farmhouse in Switzerland. He breaks off all contact with the outer world. In a psychotic crisis, he loses his ability to speak.
Zinnwald also breaks off his relationship to his older daughter Veronika, single mother of two sons and a successful pediatrician in Berlin. Veronika suffers under her father’s silence. She wants to be able to speak with him about Lily and the circumstances leading to her death, but he rejects her.
Zinnwald had once been quite successful as a painter, and in his solitude he begins to paint again. Again and again he paints Lily’s dead body as he saw her lying on a gurney in the department of forensic medicine. A gallery owner who had exhibited Zinnwald’s paintings in the past plans to include these new pictures in a major retrospective exhibition.
Twelve years after Lily’s death, Zinnwald, now 71 years old, asks his daughter Veronika to visit him. Veronika travels from Berlin to Switzerland. But their conversations end in mutual accusations: grief has made both of them lonely and callous. It turns out that, above all, Zinnwald needs Veronika to participate in his exhibition. Veronika is doubly disappointed.
During a visit by a journalist who is gathering material about Zinnwald’s paintings, a bitter argument about art arises. Zinnwald delivers a monologue about portrayals of sorrow in Christian iconography. He laments the fact that, in contrast to the numerous portraits of the grieving Mary, there exist no portraits of grieving fathers.
The story reaches its climax some months later in the Dinosaur Halls of the Museum of Natural History in New York.
The Graveyard of Bitter Oranges, Josef Winkler’s sixth book, is an episodic record of the author’s travels through Italy. A blend of memoir, fiction, and reportage, it inaugurates an iconological approach to experience that would gain increasing importance in the works that followed it, according to which observations and anecdotes drawn from newspapers and literature serve as codices for the decipherment of the traumatic events of the past.
On a beautiful day in May, Lemming is strolling the streets of Vienna with his heavily pregnant partner Klara. Suddenly her contractions begin, and with no time to get to the hospital, they must accept the help of a stranger, Angela, to deliver the baby. Soon, Angela becomes Klara’s best friend and tiny Ben’s babysitter. Then, on Christmas Eve, Lemming finds Angela dead.
Die Alaskastrasse is a road novel, a tale of men against men and men against women. It details conflict both exterior and interior; it takes an unsparing look at insecurity, lethargy, and boredom. It is suffused, in the words of one critic, with “an erotic pessimism.” The unnamed narrator in an unnamed city quits his job as web manager at an Internet dating firm and takes a spur of the moment trip with his girlfriend to an unnamed island that ends badly, setting in motion a quest (the tip-off is the book’s epigraph, from Walker Percy’s Lancelot) for some sort of inchoate fulfillment. Die Alaskastrasse is a dark, funny, compelling, self-lacerating passion play, shot through with a coruscating moral intelligence.
The City: Discoveries in the Interior of Vienna
The City… is a collection of essays documenting Gerhard Roth’s extensive exploration of the city of Vienna. He takes the reader behind the scenes of the Natural History Museum and the Austrian National Library. He reports on the extensive art and treasure collections of the Habsburgs, visits the Josephinum, the historic Vienna School of Surgeons with its Museum of Forensic Medicine, and the famous Clock Museum. Roth complements these essays, which explore humanity’s fight against transience, with reports of his visits of the institutes for the blind and the deaf and the refugee camp of Traiskirchen. In these essays, he portrays the challenges facing humanity in a new global world.
Dr. Konrad Feldt, a bibliophile and an employee of the Austrian National Library, discovers the theft of a rare handwritten Mozart musical score. The culprit, a fellow employee, hands over the score to Feldt and commits suicide. Feldt decides not to return it to the library, but to follow through with his colleague’s plan to sell it to a rich collector from Japan. Under the pretext of a lecture tour, he travels to Japan to meet the collector. The rarity and value of the manuscript complicates the transaction, however, attracting criminals. And when Feldt arrives at the collector’s shop he finds him dying, the victim of an assault. Feldt finds himself now a murder suspect. Embedded in the detective story plot are rich descriptions of the Japanese traditions, cityscapes, and landscapes, and the constant danger of earthquakes and volcano eruptions.
The journalist Viktor Gartner travels to Greece in order to write a story about the Greek Orthodox cloisters on the holy mountain Athos. The real reason for his trip however, is to find the Serbian author Goran R., whom he had met during the war in Bosnia and who is rumored to be hiding in the cloister Chilandar. Goran R. has witnessed a massacre similar to that committed by General Mladić in Srebrenica, and he fears for his life. Gartner’s search for Goran R. is accompanied by a series of mysterious, disorienting, and ominous events. One of Gartner’s contacts is murdered; others want nothing to do with him after they find out the real reason for his trip. The journey takes Gartner across the Balkans to Istanbul, where he finally is able to locate Goran R.
The Brooklyn Rail welcomes you to our web-exclusive section InTranslation, where we feature unpublished translations of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic writing. Published since April 2007, InTranslation is a venue for outstanding work in translation and a resource for translators, authors, editors, and publishers seeking to collaborate.
We seek exceptional unpublished English translations from all languages.
Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry: Manuscripts of no longer than 20 pages (double-spaced).
Plays: Manuscripts of no longer than 30 pages (in left-justified format).