Clemens Meyer visits Leeds

Thanks to funding from the DAAD, I and the German department at Leeds were able to host renowned Leipzig writer Clemens Meyer in Leeds for two days. The highlight of his visit was a packed-out bilingual reading at Leeds Central Library. Alumni from German, German students from several universities, members of the Leeds Anglo-German Society, SMLC academics and the general public were held captive by Clemens’s entertaining and raucous bilingual reading.

The evening started in German, when Clemens read from his short story, set in a prison, ‘Wir reisen’, and then switched to English when Dr. Catriona Firth read from the English translation. Clemens has often been compared to Irvine Welsh, so Dr. Firth’s Glasgow accent seemed appropriate! However, in interview with me afterwards, he admitted that while he admired Trainspotting, he doesn’t feel much affinity with Welsh’s later work. When discussing the short story form, film and the question of East German literature after the fall of the Wall, Clemens revealed an astonishingly wide range of literary influences and references, from Goethe to Yorkshire’s own David Peace. He also reacted robustly to the German press’s frequently dismissive attitude to his gritty writing from the streets of Leipzig. ‘They call me a one-trick-pony: well, I’m not, but better a one-trick-pony than a no-trick-pony!’ he said.

Clemens also taught a creative writing workshop and a translation workshop with students of all levels during his time at Leeds.

We had an even more raucous time afterwards in the Reliance pub, discussing Scottish nationalist film and East German scooters, but the less said about that, perhaps the better…

Thanks are due to the DAAD for co-financing his visit, the University of Leeds SMLC Literary Studies Research Group for organising the ‘International Writers at Leeds’ series, to Leeds Central Library for hosting the reading and inaugurating a partnership, and to Clemens’s publisher And Other Stories for making the visit possible.

Clemens’s visit follows in a long line of visits by distinguished German literary guests to Leeds, showing the strong links between teaching literature, translation and literary research at Leeds.

About Clemens Meyer

Clemens Meyer is a leading light among young German writers. His publishers And Other Stories describe him as a born storyteller. Born in 1977 in what was then East Germany, he studied at the German Literature Institute, Leipzig.

He won a number of prizes for his first novel Als wir träumten (While We Were Dreaming), published in 2006, in which a group of friends grow up and go off the rails in East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Die Nacht, die Lichter (All the Lights) was his second book. It won the prestigious Leipzig Book Fair Prize in 2008. Since then he has published his third book, Gewalten (Acts of Violence), a diary of 2009 in eleven stories.

Larissa Boehning visits Leeds

In March 2011, I was lucky enough to be able to bring German author Larissa Boehning to hold a translation masterclass and reading at the German department in Leeds, giving students an insight into literary translation and publication

Larissa Boehning and I discuss the translation workshop with my colleague Ingrid Sharp

On the 28th of March 2011, German author Larissa Boehning held a translation masterclass and a reading at the Leeds German department, accompanied by her translator Lyn Marven, who is also an academic at the University of Liverpool.

Students from all undergraduate levels and Masters students really enjoyed coming together to tackle particularly tricky translation problems in Boehning’s new unpublished novel, ‘The Song of the Cicadas’, and to bounce their ideas off Boehning and Marven.

Afterwards, Boehning held a reading from the novel, and she discussed political issues in her work with academics from the Department of German, Russian and Slavonic Studies. She also discussed her writing style and how she tackles the big issues in European history, from Stalin’s purges to the US occupation of Germany, while maintaining a focus on individual stories and family tales in her writing. Boehning’s work explores the way in which family histories and the histories of Europe criss-cross each other.

The event was a great opportunity for students of German literature and translation to see the work of a young writer and translator in action, and to get a taster of the professional literary translation process. As a result of this and other events, several students are now considering literary translation as a career. Larissa Boehning is just one in a series of distinguished German literary guests at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures in Spring 2011.

About Larissa Boehning

Larissa Boehning received great critical acclaim with her debut collection of short stories ‘Schwalbensommer’ and her novel ‘Lichte Stoffe’, about the experiences of the daughter of a black GI growing up in suburban Germany. She was trained in cultural studies, philosophy and art history. After four years in Palma de Mallorca, she has been back in Berlin since 2007. In 2000 she won Jetzt magazine’s short-story contest, and in 2002 the Prenzlauer Berg Literature Prize. ‘Lichte Stoffe’ received an award in 2007 for best German-language debut novel. Boehning regularly teaches creative and literary writing at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf.