Wednesday, August 8, 2012

German Literature

This is a very interesting article in the New York Review of Books on the perception of German, or, much rather, foreign literature in general in the U.S. As a matter of fact, I often had the same feeling. Any thoughts?

Franzen’s Ugly Americans Abroad

Tim Parks


I’m English and live in Italy. During March, within two or three days of each other, I received: from The New York Review, four novels by the Swiss author Peter Stamm; from the Italian newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, in English and Italian; and from a New York publisher, a first novel, Funeral for a Dog, by the young German writer Thomas Pletzinger. The last was accompanied by some promotional puff that begins: “Pletzinger is German, but you wouldn’t know it from his debut, which is both wise and worldly.”

What a wonderful insight this careless moment of blurb-talk gives us into the contemporary American mindset! We want something worldly, but if it seems too German, or perhaps just too foreign, we become wary. As my mailbag indicates, the literary community is very much an international phenomenon, but not, it would seem, a level playing field. To make it in America Pletzinger must shed his German-ness as if he were an immigrant with an embarrassing accent.


http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2011/may/11/franzens-ugly-americans-abroad/

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