02 August 2013

Cold Country - my next book?

Kaltland -- or Cold Country, a translation that even those of you out there not much into your German might have got -- is the book I'd like to translate next. It's the hidden story of what happened to ordinary Germans during reunification. Or, as the books editors write in their foreword, it's a story of dislocations, of seeing through & beyond a polarised debate:
"One group prefers to remember, with tears in their eyes, their GDR of shiny-happy kid’s TV-programmes, while another group remains unremittingly furious about the Socialist Unity Party state, and the Stasi terror. The West Germans have, for their part, largely accepted that they don’t need to remember the social and cultural conditions in their Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), because they were ‘the winners’, and the bigger Germany today is still the same state in which they grew up. This error has been made possible by the marginalisation, from the start, of the dislocations of the post-reunification period, which have been marketed as collateral damage. Damage which, in any case, seems largely to occur on the ‘territory joining the parent organisation'. (This is the standard German legal terminology to describe the new states, which made up the former GDR. The German word is Beitrittsgebiet.) Massive violence against asylum-seekers, leftists, homosexuals, people with disabilities and the homeless was one part of these dislocations, as were the mass redundancies of women in paid work, who had to go ‘back to the kitchen.’ Add to this the Boer-like mentality of West-Administrators, drawn by the the bait of the ‘Bush Bonus’ (A sizeable salary bonus for civil servants from West Germany, paid for relocating to the new, former East German states). Add the often downright criminal decisions of the receivers administering former state institutions and enterprises, the versatile, widespread petty fraud enacted against gullible New-Citizens, the use of young unemployed people to clear contaminated military land, the exploding human-traffic in girls and women from Eastern Europe, and a violent black-market in Russian weapons. Just to mention a few examples."
(My own translation from the foreword written by The Editors, Karsten Krampitz, Markus Liske & Manja Präkels. Pub. by Rotbuch, 2011. I refer to the German law of quotation for my right to quote from this, my own translation.)
My translation of Jochen Schmidt's eye-witness account of the Rostock pogrom in August 1992 was published in a special Kraut-Lit. Issue of the Mad Hatter's Review edited by Lucy Renner Jones. Back in May, you can read the essay here. How to get this book published in English, & how to get the job translating it? Be polite, persistent, thick-skinned, even pig-headed about it, I guess. To finish, here's what I wrote in my email to Rowan Wilson from Verso, to try to get him intrigued by the book:
"Kaltland makes for grim and fascinating reading. The issues covered are either entirely absent or have been barely looked at by academic or literary discourses. The sharp rise of neo-fascism, evident already in 1989-90, runs as a theme throughout, but a number of other ‘dislocations’ are also retold, narrated as unembellished personal memoir, or given a more literary treatment. Experiments in new anarchistic or socialistic ways of life, such as the house occupations in East Berlin in 1990, are recounted – as is the way such experiments were brutally swept aside by dominant West German political interests. Freke Over, in her chapter on the East Berlin communes, states that 5000 police-officers using rubber bullets cleared the occupied houses in the Mainzer Straße on 14 November 1990."