German Authors Are Riding a New Wave of Popularity

“Es muÃ?Â? nicht immer Cornelia Funke sein!” No, you don’t just have to read Cornelia Funke all of the time. Her phenomenal success with “Dragonrider”, “The Thief Lord” and now “Inkhart” in the United States appears to many to be the start of something bigger – something bigger for other German authors like her, that is.

Sure, her making it on the cover of Time magazine may have had a little something to do with the great international success of her books, but what came first: The chicken or the egg? And her superstar status has not gone unnoticed in the German book publishing industry. German publishers were certainly in a very good mood at the Frankfurt Book Fair recently, at least when it came to the subject of potential international sales. German books are suddenly and inexplicably selling very well overseas. And it doesn’t have to be Cornelia Funke all of the time, either.

Another German author helped pave the way for her a few years back. Time magazine didn’t have to get involved this time, either. Oprah Winfrey opened the doors for him. Her recommendation helped place Bernhard Schlink’s “The Reader” (Der Vorleser) on first place of the American bestseller list in1999. “The Reader” too, as with Funke’s works, became something of an international phenomenon. Since its first publication in Germany in 1995 it has been translated into 27 languages and has made it to the top of bestseller lists all around the world. Schlink’s small book handled the division between children and parents of the war-time generation, their inability to talk to one another about the German trauma.

A recent book dealing with the same general theme, but handling it in a completely different fashion, is “My Brother’s Shadow” (Am Beispiel meines Bruders) from Uwe Timm. This book relates the story of a long-dead brother who was a member of the SS. No chapters, the narrative uses letters, interviews, journals and other sources to give it a more personal, rambling style. Others’ recollections and thoughts are more important than a dryer, more distanced account – Timm has only one actual memory of his older brother, yet his memory weighed heavy upon him and the rest of his family.

“Measuring the World” by Daniel Kehlmann is now being distributed in thirteen countries. There are no Nazis is this story (for once?), as the book deals with the adventurous story of two you Germans who set out to measure the world. One of them, Alexander von Humboldt, fights his way through jungle and across the steppe. The other, mathematician and astronomer Carl Friedrich Gauss, remains at home and proves that space is curved. With humor and imagination, Kehlmann describes the lives of two geniuses and their balance between failure and success.

Kai Meyer’s “The Flowing Queen” is a complex work of high fantasy and has sold well all over the world. Set in a mythical 1894 Venice, the story follows a young girl, Merle, as she seeks to find the truth about herself and save her home from destruction. She is drawn into a series of uncontrollable events by the mysterious “Flowing Queen”, the lifeblood of Venice, and helped along the way by a troop of magical, supernatural creatures. Merle must save the entire world in order to save her friends and the book produces a strange tension that accompanies the reader to the very end.

“Ice Moon” from Jan Costin Wagner is a riveting mystery about Finnish detective Kimmo Joentaa who, mourning the loss of his wife, is compelled back into action by an unusual murder. A sleeping woman has been smothered to death, by a pillow, in her own bed. Joentaa believes for a moment that the murdered woman is deceased, beloved wife. More murders following the same pattern take place, but no obvious connection exists between the crimes. He soon realizes that there is a kind of spiritual kinship between him and the killer, based on their shared experience of great loss. The book is a fascinating description of detective a man in an emotional abyss.

“The Swarm” from Frank SchÃ?¤tzing will be appearing in the spring and is a masterful thriller about a chilling threat from the sea. Nature strikes back at us in a global catastrophic scenario filled with psychological and political drama. A fisherman disappears in Peru. Oil drilling experts discover a swarm of microscopic organisms covering a huge area below the Norwegian Sea. Wales along the coast of British Columbia go through bizarre changes. Will scientists and journalist Karen Weaver be able to discover the awful truth avert the horrific catastrophe in time?

And this brings us to “Glennkill”, by Leonie Swann (a pseudonym). This has to be one of the most peculiar books to have arrived upon the scene in a very long time. It’s a detective story, of sorts. The detective is a sheep is all. A German sheep, of course, only her name is Miss Maple. Immediately after the Shepard’s murder, Miss Maple begins her investigation and, with the help of a few human friends, soon reaches a startling conclusion.

No, German books aren’t just about the Nazi era anymore. And, as you can see, there is a currently a great variety of styles to choose from. Be it detective stories, fine literature, fantasy or books about Germany itself, there’s a wide field of books to enjoy. And at the moment we want to read everything.

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