Homeland

Blake Morrison writes:

Why has so little of Walter Kempowski’s work appeared in English? In Germany he published forty-odd books but only two of his novels were translated into English during his lifetime: Aus grosser Zeit (Days of Greatness) in 1978 and Hundstage (Dog Days – not to be confused with Günter Grass’s Hundejahre, Dog Years) ten years later. There was also a collection of interviews, Did You Ever See Hitler?, one of the three ‘inquiry’ volumes accompanying his autobiographical novel sequence, Deutsche Chronik, though to buy it now you’d have to fork out £144.40 on Amazon. The 2004 Cambridge Companion to the Modern German Novel makes no reference to him, even in passing. Only in the last few years, with Swansong 1945, a collective diary of the last days of the Third Reich, quickly followed by his masterpiece, the novel All for Nothing, has the English-speaking world opened up to him. The first came out here in 2014, the second in 2015, in each case nearly ten years after their appearance in German. Translations can be slow to emerge but neither Ferrante nor Knausgaard experienced such delay. If and when Kempowski’s early novels are translated, the time-lag will be more than fifty years.

(LRB 20 June 2019)

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