Want to delve into some good contemporary German literature, but don't know where to start? A new Web site called Litrix.de can help.
The goal is to get more new German literature translated and published abroad.
Litrix editor Heike Friesel knows that there are other resources on the Internet to help fans of German literature abroad choose what new books to read. But Litrix, she says, is different.
"The big advantage that we offer is that we put comprehensive trial reads of translations online," Friesel said. About 20 pages of each recommended title are translated, "so that interested people in other countries can really get a sense of the text."
A jury of literary critics is charged with the task of choosing the passages to be presented in German and English, as well as a third language which changes each year to target a different linguistic region. This year, Arabic is the language of choice. An East Asian language is expected to follow in 2005.
Friesel says Litrix is aimed primarily at people working in the publishing industry. "We appeal to publishers, academics, translators, and literary scouts, " she said, "but also Germanists, students, and anyone abroad who has to do with German literature."
The Litrix Web site was established by Germany's Federal Cultural Foundation with the aim of promoting an appreciation of contemporary German literature abroad. Visitors to the site find recommended books of the month in three categories: fiction, non-fiction, and children's books.
Screenshot von Litrix, German Literatur Online
A click on one of the choices leads to a lengthy book description, as well as a download of the sample passage. Should you get hooked and want to read on, the publisher's details along with an e-mail contact form are available.
More than the classics
Germany is still mainly an importer when it comes to literature. Twice as many books are translated into German than from German into other languages, and one in seven books on the German market is by a foreign author. While classics from writers such as Goethe and Kant may be known around the world, access to contemporary German writing is a rarity, something Litrix hopes to change.
"Part of our concept is that we only deal with new publications," Friesel explained. "So even though there might be an excellent book from three years ago, for us it's totally irrelevant. Instead, we're working to give foreign publishers access to new German books as soon as possible after they come out on the German market."