Coronavirus Updates: German-Language US Neue Literatur Fest Canceled

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The translations of German literary works commissioned as part of this year’s Festival Neue Literatur are available online, even as the 2020 event is canceled.

Artwork for New York City’s now canceled 11th annual Festival Neue Literatur, the theme of which was a prescient ‘Turn and Face the Strange’

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Theme: ‘Turn and Face the Strange’
The latest presentation change announced by an internationally focused States-based annual event in the books business comes to us today (April 8), as New York City’s Festival Neue Literatur “postpones” its 2020 program to next year. Its anticipated dates had been April 23 to 26.

The verb postponed is being used carefully. Technically, this year’s festival as an event is canceled, as organizers do say in their media messaging. But they’re opting for the “postponement” language because translations which—as Publishing Perspectives know are always part of the programming—are being made available on the site.

You can find the 11th annual program’s translations here, in a PDF compilation that reflects this year’s intended theme, “Turn and Face the Strange.” It might seem that reality has caught up with that phrasing.

Dates for an event in 2021 are not yet being named.

Translations created as part of the 11th Festival Neue Literatur plans are available in a PDF

The festival was established in 2009 as a collaborative project of New York’s leading German-language cultural institutions: the Austrian Cultural Forum New York, the consulate general of Switzerland, the German consulate general in New York, Deutsches Haus at New York University, the German Book Office and Frankfurt Book Fair New York Inc., the Goethe-Institut New York, and Pro Helvetia.

This year’s Friedrich Ulfers Prize, as our readers know, is normally presented as a curtain-raising event to the Festival Neue Literatur. This year it was to be awarded to Jill Schoolman, publisher of Archipelago Books, during the opening night of Festival Neue Literatur on April 23. That event is also postponed. The prize is endowed with a US$5,000 grant and honors a publisher, writer, critic, translator, or scholar who has championed the advancement of German-language literature in the United States. Previous recipients of the Friedrich Ulfers Prize include Susan Bernofsky, Barbara Perlmutter, Barbara Epler, Burton Pike, Robert Weil, Sara Bershtel, and the late Carol Brown Janeway.

Explanations for such cancelations, of course, are no longer needed. Festival Neue Literatur, after all, is a very New York-specific event and the city, of course, is in what many pray is the height of its battle with the pathogen.

At this writing, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center cites 401,166 cases of the coronavirus COVID-19 in the United States, and 12,936 deaths. New York City alone, as the current world epicenter of the pandemic, has 4,009 deaths, and Long Island’s death tolls have made sharp, recent upticks to an even 500 deaths at this point. These figures are from Johns Hopkins’ 11:50 a.m. ET update (1511 GMT).

The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo (D) has announced at this hour that he’ll have the state’s flags fly at half-staff in honor of the statewide losses of life, including those of New York City. The state’s total is now 5,489 deaths.

Authors of the 11th Festival Neue Festival
  • Anna Baar (Austria) had an excerpt of her first novel, Die Farbe des Granatapfels (The Color of the Pomegranate), was shortlisted for the 2015 Bachmann Prize and was awarded the Rotahorn Literature Prize. Her second novel, Als ob sie träumend gingen (As if they were Walking in a Dream), won the 2017 Theodor Körner Prize.
  • Isabel Fargo Cole (Germany) grew up in New York City, received a BA from the University of Chicago in 1995, and lives in Berlin as a writer and translator. Her translation of Wolfgang Hilbig’s Old Rendering Plant received the 2018 Kurt and Helen Wolff Prize. Her debut novel Die grüne Grenze was nominated for the 2017 Klaus Michael Kühne Prize and the Leipzig Book Fair Prize. Her second novel, Das Gift der Biene, was selected for the 2019 LiteraTour Nord.
  • Judith Keller (Switzerland) has served as editor of the literary magazine Edit, and in 2014 received the New German Fiction Award for her short story Wo ist das letzte Haus?, translated by Katy Derbyshire and published by Readux Books as “The Last House.” Her award-winning book Die Fragwürdigen (The Questionable Ones), published in 2017, has also been adapted for theater and featured as a radio play.
  • Benjamin Quaderer (Liechtenstein) studied creative writing in Hildesheim and Vienna. He has served as co-editor of the literary journal BELLA triste and artistic director of PROSANOVA 2014—Festival for Young Literature. Für immer die Alpen (The Alps Forever) is his first novel, an excerpt of which won the author a scholarship from the Senate of Berlin.
  • Sasha Marianna Salzmann (Germany) was born in Volgograd and grew up in Moscow. Salzmann has been awarded multiple accolades the novel Ausser Sich—translated by Imogen Taylor and published this February by Other Press as Beside Myself–being shortlisted for the German Book Prize in 2017. Salzmann now teaches creative writing in Germany, Turkey, Moldova, Spain, Italy, and the United States.
  • Ivna Žic (Switzerland), a native of Zagreb, has directed plays at the Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin, the Schauspielhaus in Vienna, the Theater St. Gallen, and other
    European venues. Her 2019 debut novel, Die Nachkommende (Those who come After), was nominated for the Austrian Book Prize and the Swiss Book Prize.

The works featured in this year’s festival, according to organizers, “explore the strangeness, uncanniness, and eeriness that sometimes lurks just beneath the surface of daily life and can break out full force in times of change—whether large or small, internal or external, real or imagined, spatial or temporal.”

Included in the narratives are “out-of-body experiences, the loneliness of a con-man in a tiny country, a lost twin, time travel in and out of complicated pasts and no less complicated presents, poisonous bees, a miracle or two, deer-headed intruders, along with a series of far-fetched women—and then things get really strange.”


More from Publishing Perspectives on Festival Neue Literatur is here. And more from us on the coronavirus pandemic is here.

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About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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