Kaffeepause mit… Susan Thorne, Editor of No Man’s Land

No Man’s Land publishes original English translations of literature written in German in the past quarter century. As the journal is is now accepting submissions, we caught up with Editor Susan Thorne to find out more.

Susan, thanks for your time today.  How and where are you?  How are things? 

I’m fine, thank you, having spent this COVID year at home in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.  It’s been a good time to catch up with German language historical novels – a favourite genre of mine that appears to be gaining attention – including Hans Pleschinski’s Wiesenstein, Thomas Hettche’s Pfaueninsel, and Michael Roes’s Zeithain: all wonderful books. 

Looking ahead, I have my eye on Franzobel’s Die Eroberung Amerikas, which came out in January, and I am hoping that V & Q Books, a new imprint offering English translations of German novels, may soon be able to take orders from North America.

(V & Q is an initiative of Katy Derbyshire, one of the founding editors of No Man’s Land).

Your background is in journalism.  What do you feel this brings to your career as a translator?

For several years I was an independent journalist contributing to numerous periodicals, from Canadian Living magazine to specialty publications for chefs, lawyers, or the shopping center industry.  The experience sharpened my awareness of different ways to use language selectively and find an appropriate voice and perspective.  It also gave me practice in self-editing and re-crafting my writing.  That kind of scrutiny proved to be good training for translating, where a first draft is only a beginning.

What would be your dream translation project?

As you may have guessed from my earlier remarks, my dream project would be to translate a historical novel, and I’d give preference to a work that brings a less familiar, distant historical period to life, as Martin Mosebach does in Der NebelfürstIdeally, the author would be available to communicate with me about the translation and perhaps establish a friendly working relationship.

You are the Editor of No Man’s Land.  Can you tell us a bit about this periodical for those who aren’t familiar with it?  What makes it special?

No Man’s Land is an annual online journal of contemporary German-language prose and poetry in English translation.  It is unique in focusing exclusively on literature written since 1990, so it offers a very current literary sampler, composed entirely of material submitted to us by literary translators.

The journal, now in its sixteenth year, has featured the work of over 150 translators, some of them emerging and others well established; and they include recipients of awards such as the PEN/Heim Translation Grant, the German Book Office Prize, and the Schlegel-Tieck Prize.

The publication grew out of lively translation workshops and competitions among G-to-E translators in Berlin, and it remains independent, without any institutional affiliation or sponsorship, and volunteer-based.  The current editorial board members, all translators of German lit, are geographically scattered among Europe, the UK, and North America, but this teamwork-at-a-distance has worked well, including during the pandemic.

We publish an eclectic collection of writings and are open to new ideas.  Scrolling through our contents, you’ll find various genres represented such as fantasy fiction, political protest poems, picaresque adventure stories, and classic lyrical verse.  One of the most unusual featured texts has been the comparison in Issue 3 of several poems in Franconian-German, Shetlandic (a Scottish dialect) and English. 

The addition of creative nonfiction in 2019 has further broadened our literary scope.

You have launched submissions for the next issue.  What makes for a good submission?  What should translators look out for?

We do not have a ‘house style’ or particular preferences concerning content.  For prose selections we are most attracted to self-contained short stories or creative nonfiction pieces, though an engaging excerpt can work well, too.  Jozef van der Voort’s “Forever the Alps,” for instance, is a translation of the opening chapter of Benjamin Quaderer’s Für immer die Alpen which caught our attention with its fast-paced, unpredictable train of events and its flourishes of magic realism.  We were pleased to include it in the 2020 issue. 

We appoint a new Guest Poetry Editor for each issue who decides on the editorial approach for that year, but generally speaking I can say that a strong poetry submission will include enough content to give a sense of the writer’s style and uniqueness. 

Aside from the visibility that publication in the journal brings, are there other benefits for translators in appearing on the site?

Our Facebook site, managed by Geoff Howes, regularly features selections from translations we’ve published and posts updates about ‘our’ translators, such as news of an award received or a new book coming out.

Translators often report that they find No Man’s Land’s review process helpful.  Our reviewers offer edits and suggestions for all accepted translations, working closely with both the English and the original German versions of the translator’s chosen text.

Finally, what would you say to people submitting for the first time?

When you discover an exciting German-language short story, nonfiction composition, or poem, we encourage you to send your translation to No Man’s Land

We welcome all submissions, regardless of the translator’s level of experience, and are glad to have new contributors. 

We look forward to hearing from you.

No Man’s Land is now accepting submissions for the sixteenth edition (2021) until September 10, 2021.

The journal publishes original (not previously published) English translations of literature written in German in the past quarter century (since 1990). It welcomes submissions in the following categories:

1) Short prose:  Short stories and creative nonfiction, including self-contained excerpts from longer works ( maximum length 4,000 words).

2) Poetry:  Six or fewer poems by a single author.

One submission per translator may be received in one of the above categories for a particular annual issue.  If your work has been published recently in No Man’s Land, they ask that you not submit in consecutive years.

Before submission, the translator should communicate with the publisher or other rightsholder of the German-language work to ensure that English-language rights are available.

Simultaneous submissions will be accepted on condition of immediate notification if your translation is accepted for publication elsewhere.

They accept only electronic submissions sent through the Submission Portal (link below). Your submission must include the following:

* Your translation(s) into English;
* A brief biography of the author (200 words maximum);
* A brief biography of the translator (200 words maximum);
* For prose excerpts, a short preface describing the context of the translated passage;
* The original German-language text, as either a PDF or WORD (doc or docx) document.  When scanning a text, please include all pages in a single document.
* Details of the availability of rights for the original (German-language) work and your source for this information.

These guidelines and a link to the submission portal are here.

New Books in German promotes German-language literature for translation into English in the UK, USA and beyond. We feature recommendations of the best new fiction and non-fiction titles from Austria, Germany and Switzerland. We publish articles and information on books, authors and those who translate or work with them.

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