Jury recommendations: Spring 2023

We are really pleased to share our selection for Spring 2023. The jury chose these titles from just over a hundred that publishers sent to us for consideration: the books here stood out to the jurors as excellent titles that are suitable for an English -language readership.

All of the titles here benefit from our translation funding guarantee.

Books are listed alphabetically, divided into fiction and nonfiction. When you go to the page about the book, you will be able to download all of the information as a pdf.

Fiction

Tell Alex Not to Wait for Me (Sag Alex, er soll nicht auf mich warten), Irene Diwiak, C.Bertelsmann – a fictionalised account of the real-life friendship that led to the founding of the White Rose resistance group during the Second World War. The book has heightened significance for a contemporary readership in the light of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Penetrating Silence (Die Verwandelten), Ulrike Draesner, Penguin Verlag – A powerful examination of the violence women face both in conflict and in peacetime, Penetrating Silence is a novel of breath-taking scope and emotional weight. Draesner has built an intricate plot around seven female protagonists, whose lives intersect across the span of a century.

The Incommensurables (Die Inkommensurablen), Raphaela Edelbauer, Klett-Cotta – Richly populated with well-developed characters and showcases pre-war Viennese society, with numerous allusions to famous political figures, notable composers, biologists, psychotherapists, mathematicians and philosophers. The novel deals with mass behaviour, women’s rights and social injustice.

Headfirst (Seemann vom Siebener), Arno Frank, Klett-Cotta – Beneath the languorous summer day and the specific magic of the community swimming pool, Frank’s major theme is the past: how easily memories can resurface to influence the present. Written in clean, evocative prose that often borders on the lyrical, Seemann vom Siebener is also a paean to Freibad culture, the German answer to John Cheever’s ‘The Swimmer’.

Eternal Summer (Ewig Sommer), Franziska Gänsler, Kein & Aber – Set in a not-too-distant future, it imagines southern Germany in the grip of climate change, with two strong female protagonists meeting as forest fires rage around them. Written in rhythmic, atmospheric prose, this thought-provoking novel challenges our complacency about the environment and poses a haunting question: ‘Whom can you trust?’

The Happy Secret (Das glückliche Geheimnis), Arno Geiger, Hanser Verlag – The Happy Secret charts the author’s incredible evolution from a rubbish-collector rooting through Vienna’s bins – a self-confessed ‘vagabond, a tramp, … a nobody’ – into a distinguished literary figure. 

Although Everything Is Over (Obwohl alles vorbei ist), Franziska Gerstenberg, Schöffling & Co. – Franziska Gerstenberg’s second novel is narrated from four different perspectives, focusing on a family crisis that plays out against the wider socio-historical backdrop of the last twenty years. 

For Seka (Für Seka), Mina Hava, Suhrkamp Verlag – For Seka is a powerful debut novel about the experiences of a young woman dealing with trauma and loss in the aftermath of the war in Bosnia.

We Would Have Told Each Other Everything (Wir hätten uns alles gesagt), Judith Hermann, S. Fischer – A work of subtle, perceptive autofiction from one of Germany’s most highly regarded contemporary voices, Wir hätten uns alles gesagt marks a turning point in Judith Hermann’s work. Though written in her characteristic melancholy, understated style, this series of three interconnected stories taken from the author’s own life confronts painful events and emotions head-on, sometimes to devastating effect.

The Red Diamond (Der Rote Diamant), Thomas Hürlimann, S. Fischer – The Red Diamond is a philosophical literary comedy set in a Benedictine Abbey during the second half of the twentieth century. It follows a group of teenage students as they search for the legendary red diamond, believed to be hidden in the abbey.

Sibir (Sibir), Sabrina Janesch, Rowohlt – In 1990s Germany, life in the Ambachers’ neighbourhood full of ‘old Siberians’ – people repatriated from Kazakhstan in 1955 and now living on the fringes of the local community – is interrupted by the arrival of yet more returnees. Janesch explores a little-known aspect of German-Russian history, considering how borders and boundaries affect the ways in which we remember things. 

Summer in Odesa (Sommer in Odessa), Irina Kilimnik, Kein & Aber – Irina Kilimnik’s debut novel tells the story of a pivotal summer for both a young woman and a city. Set during Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Sommer in Odessa is a rich portrait of family and friendship, a novel about identity and personal transformation with a fresh, contemporary feel.

There Is Us (Es gibt uns), Elisabeth Klar, Residenz Verlag – Notable for the beautiful language, strong dialogue and distinctive premise that typify Klar’s work, Es gibt uns is an unusual novel that blends science fiction and fantasy to mesmerising effect.

Unicellular (Einzeller), Gertraud Klemm, Kremayr & Scheriau – Unicellular is a work of feminist literary fiction, following five very different female characters and the conflicts they encounter as part of their flatshare living arrangement and participation in a TV talk show. Klemm’s novel is a thought-provoking and timely analysis of current feminist discourse, addressing intersectionality and the ways in which race, class, and gender impact upon the feminist movement. 

Pasteurgasse 4, Daily (Pasteurgasse 4, täglich), Andrea Landfried, Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt – A series of three loosely connected short stories, Pasteurgasse 4, täglich is the debut work of fiction of Andrea Landfried. A suspenseful and highly psychological read, it paints portraits of three relationships between women of different generations, examining themes of female desire, alienation and social expectation.

Tanner’s Earth (Tanners Erde), Lukas Maisel, Rowohlt – An unusual, powerful novella,  stark in both language and imagery. Tanner, the main protagonist, has a small farm on the outskirts of a village in the Swiss Alps. Suddenly, overnight, a huge hole appears in one of his fields.

Open Water (Offene Gewässer), Romina Pleschko, Kremayr & Scheriau – Open Water is a coming-of-age novel with a teenage protagonist who doesn’t fit into the provincial town in Austria where she lives, then returns decades later to enact a kind of vengeance.

Ocean Breeze (Meeresbrise), Carolina Schutti, Literaturverlag Droschl – With its striking fragmented structure and sparing yet beautiful use of language, Meeresbrise is a haunting novel about undisclosed trauma, social marginalisation, coming of age in a rural community and how we establish a life for ourselves. Schutti’s sensitive way with words and keen eye for detail make this high-quality literary fiction with a captivatingly poetic touch.

The Café Without Name (Das Café ohne Namen), Robert Seethaler, Claassen – A vivid depiction of one Viennese district throughout a decade of social and economic change, Das Café ohne Namen is also a portrait of ordinary lives centred on a neighbourhood café. Written in Seethaler’s signature accessible style, with a keen eye for detail, the book is the latest work of fiction by Robert Seethaler, whose novel A Whole Life (tr. Charlotte Collins, Picador) was shortlisted for the 2016 International Booker Prize.

Moons before the Landing (Monde vor der Landung), Clemens J. Setz, Suhrkamp Verlag – Already a bestseller in Germany, this book is Clemens J. Setz’s much-anticipated first book since winning one of Germany’s highest literary honours, the Georg Büchner Prize, in 2021. The book is a literary biography of Peter Bender, a pilot during the First World War and proponent of the abstruse ‘Hollow World Theory’. Setz follows the fascinating story of this eccentric man and his family at the beginning of the twentieth century, through the rise of Nazism. 

Melody (Melody), Martin Suter, Diogenes Verlag – Melody is a tremendously compelling modern mystery set in the recent past, about a man who loses his great love – the ‘Melody’ of the title – and spends the rest of his life searching for her.The truth has many faces in Melody, encouraging the reader to question everything about this tightly plotted novel. And yet the narrative perspective and structure are expertly choreographed; the ending is not given away even a moment before the reader arrives at it. 

22 Lengths (22 Bahnen), Caroline Wahl, DuMont Verlag – Wahl’s characters in 22 Bahnen are well drawn and believable, and the novel has plenty of dialogue that maintains its pace. The first-person narrator, Tilda, is a gifted Maths student who has to care for her younger sister, Ida, as their mother is an alcoholic and their father is no longer around. 

Nonfiction

The Chinese Phantom. The World’s Most Dangerous Arms Dealer, or The Powerlessness of the West (Die Jagd auf das chinesische Phantom. Der gefährlichste Waffenhändler der Welt oder Die Ohnmacht des Westens), Christoph Giesen, Philipp Grüll, Frederik Obermaier, Bastian Obermayer, Kiepenheuer & Witsch – This gripping piece of investigative journalism follows its authors’ attempts to uncover the truth about one of the world’s most dangerous men and his involvement in Iran’s ballistic missile programme. The authors come thrillingly close to tracking down the mysterious Chinese businessman, but Karl Lee, also known as Li Fangwei, remains on the FBI’s most wanted list with a five-million-dollar bounty on his head.

The Castle of Writers (Das Schloss der Schriftsteller), Uwe Neumahr, C.H.Beck – A stunning account of the first Nuremberg Trial, Das Schloss der Schriftsteller takes an unusual approach to a subject already well covered in literature. Writer and literary agent Uwe Neumahr recounts the events of 1946 through the lens of journalists billeted in the Faber-Castell palace, from which they covered the historic trial for global news outlets.

How to Become a Butterfly: the short, courageous life of my daughter Reyhaneh Jabbari (Wie man ein Schmetterling wird: Das kurze, mutige Leben meiner Tochter Reyhaneh Jabbari), Shole Pakravan & Steffi Niederzoll, Piper Verlag – A mother’s memoir about the imprisonment, conviction and execution of her daughter Reyhaneh Jabbari, a young Iranian woman who was executed for killing her rapist in self-defence. The book was written in conjunction with German filmmaker Steffi Niederzoll to accompany the documentary Seven Winters in Tehran, which premiered at the 2023 Berlinale and won the festival’s Peace Film Prize. 

Man of the Sea. Thomas Mann and the Love of His Life
(Mann vom Meer. Thomas Mann und die Liebe seines Lebens), Volker Weidermann, Kiepenheuer & Witsch – Volker Weidermann’s new book is an exquisite novelistic biography of Thomas Mann, exploring his enduring fascination with the sea. It takes readers on a whistlestop tour through Mann’s life and work, beginning with a glimpse of his mother’s childhood on the coast of Brazil and ending with an afterword about his daughter Elisabeth’s career as an international expert on maritime law. 

Paradise Station: the last journey of Matthias Domaschk (Jena-Paradies: Die letzte Reise des Matthias Domaschk), Peter Wensierski, Aufbau Verlag – A dramatic account of the final days of Matthias Domaschk, who died in a Stasi detention centre in 1981 at the age of twenty-three, Jena-Paradies explores how state repression can impact the lives of ordinary young people. Peter Wensierski is a well-regarded author, journalist and filmmaker who has written a lot about revolution and discontent in the GDR. This expertise shines through in his meticulously researched and captivating biography.

Photo by Stefan Steinbauer on Unsplash


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