Monday, July 02, 2007

What German crime-fiction readers read

An article in English on the Goethe-Institut Web site calls Germany a Mystery Story Paradise in the Middle of Europe. The article is a year old, but, assuming it remains relatively current, it has much of interest to say about German readers' tastes and about the crime fiction available to them. A few highlights:

1) Every year 600 to 800 mystery stories are published in Germany, about two-thirds in translation. Of approximately 800 mystery stories that appeared in 2005, just under 200 were imports from Europe. An estimated 200 more come from the United States and Canada, and a small remainder from Asia, Africa, Australia and Oceania. (Since publication of the article, The Broken Shore, by the superb Australian Peter Temple, has won an award in its German translation as Kalter August. Read more in German about Temple at that wide ranging German crime-fiction site Krimi-Couch.)

2) The most influential present-day British author is Ian Rankin.

3) Germans have been reading crime fiction from the Nordic countries since the nineteenth century. The list of Nordic writers available in German includes some of the same authors availble in English, and some whose work I wish were available in English, including Finland's Harri Nykänen. (Quite apart from the article, I know that more than ten of Håkan Nesser's books are have been published in German translation, versus the two available in English. No wonder Nesser calls Germany "the door-opener to the rest of Europe.")

4) At least in 2006, Italian crime fiction was "(w)idely publicised, but unfortunately not very successful." The article cites Carlo Lucarelli, Andrea Camilleri and a writer I don't know: Giuseppe Genna.

5) Among French crime authors who have made a splash in Germany are Jean-Claude Izzo, Fred Vargas, and, again, one I don't know: "the mystic-adventurer Jean-Christophe Grangé."

6) Crime fiction is just beginning to stir in the countries of the former Soviet bloc: "In their homeland, Polina Daschkowa, Darja Donzowa, Alebxandra Marinina, Tatjana Ustinowa and Viktoria Platowa have enjoyed vast million editions. Their novels are entertaining, not particularly difficult, and in part written with an eye to a mass public which wants to experience history through children of the Tsar and heroes in the shape of nouveau riche capitalists. Often brilliantly written, fabulous froth of the day from a society that is seeking itself."

P.S. I forgot to add that the article shows special appreciation for my man Bill James: "Alas, only confirmed mystery story fans know the authors of the “Brit Noir” – Charles Lewis, Derek Raymond, Bill James, and Helen Zahavi ..."

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Blogger Dave Knadler said...

As someone who occasionally writes crime fiction, this is encouraging. Up to 800 stories a year? I'm sure that dwarfs the U.S. market. Maybe I should brush up on my German.

I wonder: are these being published mostly in small crime-fiction magazines, or in more mainstream publications?

July 02, 2007  
Blogger Vince said...

I'm familiar with "the mystic-adventurer Jean-Christophe Grangé" from the movies. His novel The Crimson Rivers was turned into a hugely successful film that was released in the U.S.

July 02, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the comment, Vince. I'll look into Grangé, starting with the movie.

July 02, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder if German writers and translators wear out the shift keys on their typewriters and computers more often than writers in other languages because of all those uppercase nouns.

I assumed that the 800 figure referred to novels, since every title cited in the article is a novel, and the authors referred to are known primarily for their novels.

July 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only book of I know translated into English by Giuseppe Genna is "In the name of Ishmael" - a political thriller set combining two time lines - 60s and contemporary. More info at I think you'ld enjoy it.

There are four novels translated into English by Jean Christophe Grange - Blood Red Rivers (UK title for Crimson Rivers), the Flight of the Storks, The Stone Council and Empire of the Wolves. The first is a very dark police procedural, the latter three are thrillers.

July 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buried deep on Mt TBR I've got 3 Jean-Christophe Grangé novels:

Blood Red Rivers
Flight of the Storks
The Stone Council

I fell over them a few years ago in a little bookshop somewhere in Country Victoria and just grabbed them having no idea of the author, but thought the blurbs sounded interesting.

I really really really really need more reading hours in my day.

July 04, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Laura. Karen, I can certainly sympathize with the problems of having too many books to read. I'll certainly report back once I've sampled Genna, Grangé and any movies based on their work that I can find

A question that follows naturally from the consideration of which translated crime fiction German readers read is how publishers choose which authors and books to translate.

July 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll look forward to your comments Peter.

It is an interesting thing - which authors to translate where. I understand from Swedish colleagues of my husband's that there is a lot of their crime fiction which is still not translated. Makes you want to sob (or get out the language tapes). I think the sobbing is probably a more practical option for me though.

July 05, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have come across a number of names of Swedish crime writers whos names I had not recognized. One source of such names is the Swedish crime writers' association's lists of award winners and nominees at Incidentally, the list for the translated-crime-fiction prize offers some insight on what Swedish crime-fiction fans get to read.

July 05, 2007  
Anonymous Irene said...

I know i'm a little bit late but there are many good German crime writers around. so many of the published novels are translations, there is an increasing number of german novels on the market.

If you are intrested in genuine german fiction feel free to take a look at the adress above... (but only in case you've had some german at school!!!)

February 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

More than a little late, but that is never a sin here. I know of two German crime-fiction Web sites that could help me keep track of the scene in Germany, and there is always the address above. I have had a bit of German, but only a very little!

Thanks for the comment.

February 02, 2010  

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