Our mission is to find ways to show readers, and publishers, that the great books speak for themselves, moving beyond national boundaries and containing the potential to reach readers across the globe. Working in the world of translated German-language literature brings with it its own special battle against a specific set of clichés and stereotypes: that Germany, Austria and Switzerland produce mostly dense, over-serious, weighty tomes. That Germans, in particular, either have no sense of humour or one that is thoroughly different from our own. For this reason, I have long wanted to theme an issue of NBG around humour, and I breathe a sigh of relief as I introduce that issue to you today.
The themes of each of our issues do not influence our selection of books for review – these are always the finest voices and texts in contemporary German-language literature, regardless of subject matter or genre. But it was striking this time that so many of our reviewers highlighted the humorous, the satirical, the laugh-out-loud hilarious in their book reports. Whether this is the sign of a new trend in the literature remains to be seen, but what is certain is that throughout its history German-language literature has been no stranger to laughter.
From translators’ recommendations of their favourite humorous authors, through articles about New York’s ‘Seriously Funny’ festival of literary wit, to a historical view on the biting irony of the Viennese coffee houses in the early twentieth century, this issue of NBG celebrates the authors who make us laugh, and explores how that laughter can reframe the way we view the world.
With thanks to all those who helped in putting this issue together, and who ensured that much laughter accompanied that process, I invite you to turn these pages, open your minds, and prepare to be amused.