We are delighted to share with you the books chosen by our jury for Spring 2022. The books we have chosen for you are outstanding examples of their genre and recommended for English-language readers.
All books benefit from financial support for their translation into English if the rights are bought by an English-language publisher. You can read more about how the funding works here.
Djinns (Dschinns), Fatma Aydemir, Hanser Verlag – a fast-paced and character-driven family saga set in Germany and Turkey at the end of the 20th century. Following the story of a Turkish-Kurdish family who emigrated to Germany when the children were small, the novel touches on the themes of immigrant experiences, LGBTQ struggles, mental health, and grief.
We have a different name on the street (Auf der Straße heißen wir anders), Laura Cwiertnia, Klett-Cotta – a captivating and sensitively written family saga, following four generations from Armenia to Germany via Istanbul and Jerusalem. Exploring how the devastating impact of the 1915 genocide continues to make itself felt today, this debut novel draws on Cwiertnia’s own first visit to Armenia.
The Rage That Remains (Die Wut, die bleibt), Mareike Fallwickl, Rowohlt – a dark and challenging, kitchen-sink-meets-gang-violence tale set in Salzburg and dealing with suicide, family, friendship, gender and sisterhood. A remarkable examination of women’s roles and experiences, set against the backdrop of Covid lockdowns, that should appeal to readers of Gillian Flynn, Otessa Moshfeg and Emma Cline.
The Diplomat (Die Diplomatin), Lucy Fricke, Ullstein – This latest novel by the award-winning Lucy Fricke is a fast-paced and engrossing read with an almost cinematic quality. Reminiscent of novels by Graham Greene and John Le Carré, The Diplomat sees an ambitious bureaucrat begin to question the fundamentals of her work.
An Uprising of Sea Creatures (Aufruhr der Meerestiere), Marie Gamillscheg, Luchterhand Literaturverlag – a timely and carefully crafted book with a marine biologist protagonist. The novel explores themes of the body, the individual and the impact humanity is having on the natural world. Gamillscheg has already won a number of awards for her work, and has been hailed by Spiegel online as ‘one of the most exciting young voices of German-speaking literature’.
The Obstructed Path. Novel on a Brother’s life (Der versperrte Weg. Roman des Bruders), Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt, Wallstein – In this slim, unusual and hauntingly written fictionalised memoir, Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt, now aged 93 and ‘a French author of German origin’, tells the story of his older brother, here called Erich, with the book becoming a poetic account of Erich’s life, and a kind of apology for the author’s own.
The Hypnotist or Never so happy as in the Realm of Ideas (Der Hypnotiseur oder Nie so glücklich wie im Reich der Gedanken), Jakob Hein, Galiani Berlin – A light-hearted novel set in the 1980s in which a hypnotherapist enables East Germans to escape the limitations of life in the GDR by going on fantastical foreign travels in their minds.
Lionheart (Löwenherz), Monika Helfer, Hanser Verlag – This rich novella, by the award-winning author Monika Helfer, is based around the life of the author’s brother, Richard. Eschewing sentimentality, the book paints an absorbing picture of a remarkable and yet very ordinary man.
A Simple Intervention (Ein simpler Eingriff), Yael Inokai, Hanser Verlag – Inokai won the Swiss Literary Prize for her 2018 novel Maelstrom, but has not yet been translated into English. The novel opens with the perspective of Meret, a young nurse who works at a psychiatric clinic in an unnamed Swiss city. The clinic develops a new method of treating apparent psychiatric disorders – a method which is used predominantly on women.
The Memory Forger (Der Erinnerungsfälscher), Abbas Khider, Hanser Verlag – A Baghdad-born author, Khider fled persecution under Saddam Hussein’s regime, arriving in Germany in 2000 via Jordan and Libya. His writing often draws on his own experiences, exploring the repercussions of flight and exile. In this, his his sixth book, Khider turns his focus on what it means to return home when you have built a life for yourself elsewhere.
The Trip (Der Ausflug), Dirk Kurbjuweit, Penguin – A taut, claustrophobic thriller about a canoeing trip with fatal consequences for a group of four, 30-something school friends. The quartet’s annual get-together is a chance to escape their problems and reminisce about school days and simpler times. But things get off to a rocky start when Josef, who is black, is confronted by racist locals on the first night.
No Right to Live (Leben verboten!), Maria Lazar, Das vergessene Buch – DVB Verlag – Berlin, 1931. Ernst von Ufermann, once a successful businessman, misses a flight after his wallet is stolen. The theft turns out to have been fortuitous: the plane crashes and all the passengers die. No one seems to have registered that Ufermann was not on board. Ufermann feels oddly liberated and decides to take a break from his responsible yet unfulfilling life as a banker. No Right to Live marks the rediscovery of an important modernist voice for the 21st century.
Holidays at the Forest Lake (Ferien am Waldsee. Erinnerungen eines Überlebenden.), Carl Laszlo, Das vergessene Buch – DVB Verlag – Carl Laszlo’s fictionalised memoir Holidays at the Forest Lake is a powerful and deeply moving account of the author’s time in a number of concentration camps in the final year of World War Two. The book was first published in 1955 but gained little attention in a society that was unwilling to deal with such recent horrors. Now reaching a larger readership since its republication in 2020, Holidays at the Forest Lake offers an original and compelling perspective on the horrors of the camps.
We Know, We Could, and We Fall in Sync (Wir wissen, wir könnten, und fallen synchron), Yade Yasmin Önder, Kiepenheuer & Witsch – an inventive, exuberant, darkly comic and at times brutal novel about loss, dysfunctional family relationships, growing up German with Turkish heritage, and self-disgust.
Upheaval (Zukunftsmusik), Katerina Poladjan, S. Fischer – Katerina Poladjan’s Upheaval is a sparse and evocative novella reminiscent of Nora Ikstena’s Soviet Milk (tr. Margita Gailitis). Following the occupants of a Siberian kommunalka over the course of one history-defining day in March 1985, Upheaval elevates ordinary lives through its focus on extraordinary detail.
Tell (Tell), Joachim B. Schmidt, Diogenes – a modern take on the William Tell myth is a compelling exploration of power, violence and masculinity. Tell brings psychological depth and complexity to a tale readers may think they know, combining these with powerful storytelling in a novel reminiscent of Gabriela Cabezón Cámara’s The Adventures of China Iron.
So You Finally Found Us (Hast du uns endlich gefunden), Edgar Selge, Rowohlt – Edgar Selge is a well-known German actor, now in his early 70s, who used the enforced leisure of the Covid pandemic to reflect upon and try to make sense of his experience of growing up in post-war Germany. With echoes of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader, So You Finally Found Us has sold more than 100,000 copies and has been on the SPIEGEL bestseller list for 19 consecutive weeks.
Is this the Other Side, Asks Pig (Ist hier das Jenseits, fragt Schwein), Noemi Somalvico, Voland & Quist – A whimsical and absurdist fable, the book adapts the conventions of A.A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books – with talking animals, an episodic structure and stylised summaries for chapter titles – for an adult audience. The result is a sometimes funny and always wistful novel which will appeal to fans of Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse and A.L. Kennedy’s The Little Snake.
Blue Woman (Blaue Frau), Antje Rávik Strubel, S. Fischer – Antje Rávik Strubel won the German Book Prize 2021 with Blue Woman, a complex and multi-layered novel with poetic use of language. Interwoven with reflections on cultures of memory and political power in Eastern and Western Europe is the tale of a young woman trying to deal with the trauma of having been raped: to take back her own agency and to go on living.
On the Sward (An der Grasnarbe), Mirjam Wittig, Suhrkamp – Mirjam Wittig’s debut novel On the Sward is a nuanced, literary and timely examination of young people’s mental health in the 21st century, and the anxieties triggered by terror attacks and climate change. Set in the present day, it tells the tale of Noa, a young woman who leaves the city and volunteers to work on a farm in the South of France, hoping to alleviate her panic attacks and live a simpler, more peaceful life.
Nastia’s Tears (Nastjas Tränen), Natascha Wodin, Rowohlt – This narrative tells the story of Nastia, a Ukrainian woman born about 1945 who becomes an engineer, wife and mother during the Brezhnev period of the Soviet Union, emigrates after the fall of the Iron Curtain and leads the difficult life of a poor immigrant woman in Berlin up to the present. A plausible, realistic, sober and hauntingly timely depiction of the challenges of a middle-class life in the Soviet Union and those confronting Eastern European immigrants in Western Europe.
Days of Forgetting (Tage des Vergessens), Yvonne Zitzmann, Müry Salzmann Verlag – an unsettling and thought-provoking debut novel by an author already acclaimed for her YA writing. Exploring territory probed by the Academy Award-winning film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Anna Smaill’s The Chimes, Zitzmann combines questions about memory and trauma with the tension and suspense of a thriller.
Iran. Freedom Is Female (Iran. Die Freiheit ist weiblich), Golineh Atai, Rowohlt – Although Golineh Atai, an award-winning German-Iranian journalist and best-selling author, was five years old when she and her parents left Iran, the country has always been close to her heart and she has had a constant interest in its development and progress. Her latest book presents an electrifying portrait of Iranian society since the Islamic revolution, with insights and observations that no outsider would be able to access.
What Remains When We Die (Was bleibt, wenn wir sterben), Louise Brown, Diogenes – Taking an open, matter of fact and direct approach, and deploying a personal, conversational tone, Louise Brown, who is a funeral orator as well as a writer, journalist and podcaster, aims to leave her readers feeling more comfortable and less disconcerted when talking about death, and to help them deal more effectively with existential fears.
Smyrna in Flames: How a Fire Changed Europe (Smyrna in Flammen. Der Untergang der osmanischen Metropole 1922 und seine Folgen für Europa), Lutz C. Kleveman, Aufbau – One hundred years ago, in 1922, tens of thousands of people lost their lives in the fire that almost completely destroyed the city of Smyrna, the legendary port of the Ottoman Empire. This devastating event that effectively brought an end to the Greco-Turkish war changed Europe for ever; it was followed by a population exchange of almost two million Christians and Muslims, which was to be a precursor to all the ethnic cleansing of the 20th century.
A Torch in the Darkness: Historian Carl Erdmann and the Third Reich. Volume 1: Biography (Fackel in der Finsternis. Der Historiker Carl Erdmann und das “Dritte Reich“. Die Biographie), Folker Reichert, wbg – A leading German historian tells the life story of an up-and-coming medievalist Carl Erdmann – whose stubbornness, moral compass, and sense of academic rigour ensured that his university career was cut short under the Third Reich. This biography is testament to the ways in which Nazis controlled university culture, but also to the choices facing individual academics as scholarship became increasingly personal and political.
If you are a publisher interested in publishing one of these titles, or any of our previous selections which qualify for guaranteed translation funding assistance, please click here for further information. You are very welcome to contact Sarah Hemens at New Books in German, or the relevant funding body directly.
New Books in German does not award translation funding itself. The financial assistance for translation is guaranteed by the generous support of our partners.