German-Language Literature Gets an Upgrade

There’s never been a shortage of distinguished German-language writers: Heinrich Böll, Thomas Mann, Herman Hesse, Günter Grass, Elfriede Jelinek and Herta Müller – all winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature. But in the United States, there’s a shortage of German-language readers, and very little German-language fiction gets translated into English. Spanish and French are taught more often than German in American schools – in part because of our proximity to Latin America, but also because of the growing numbers of U.S. immigrants from Spanish- and French-speaking countries. But the literary output of Germany, Austria and Switzerland has had a harder time crossing over. It’s ironic in that, while the U.S. is one of the most ethnically diverse nations in the world, most Americans trace their ancestry to Germany than any other particular country. And although the Chinese were the first to invent the printing press, Germany’s Johannes Gutenberg was the first to invent movable type in Europe. The collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 exposed the world to more of Eastern Europe’s literary greats, and increased Internet usage in the past decade has drawn writers and readers closer. But, German scribes still seem relegated to some antiquitous past. An annual festival in New York City, Festival Neue Literatur, has been trying to change that for the past three years.

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2 responses to “German-Language Literature Gets an Upgrade

  1. Pingback: Literature Reading: The Blind Side of the Heart « Literary Chronicles

  2. Pingback: Why Clichés About Translations Hurt Books | Chief Writing Wolf

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