Co-translated by Dr. Jennifer Watson, associate professor of German in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences
Thomas Brussig’s classic German novel, “The Short End of the Sonnenallee,” is finally available to an American audience in a pitch-perfect translation by Jonathan Franzen and Dr. Jenny Watson. A moving and miraculously comic story of life in East Berlin before the fall of the Berlin Wall, “Sonnenallee,” confounds the stereotypes of life in totalitarian East Germany. Brussig’s funny, charming tale of adolescents being adolescents is a portrait of a surprisingly warm community enduring in the shadow of the Iron Curtain. As Franzen writes in his foreword, the book is “a reminder that, even when the public realm becomes a nightmare, people can still privately manage to preserve their humanity, and be silly, and forgive.”
Learn more or purchase this book at Boswell Books
Dr. Watson answered some questions about her new book, including where the idea for the book came from, her favorite part of the writing process and what she hopes the book can accomplish.
I teach a reunification course (in English) and have been very frustrated that I have not been able to teach this specific book because it was not translated. I wrote to the author asking about the book and his agent sent me an interesting article where Jonathan Franzen was quoted talking about German humor and how it’s a shame more books, such as “Sonnenallee,” are not translated into English. I took a chance and wrote to Franzen and he wrote back! After writing back and forth a few times, we decided we’d translate the book together
The novel confounds the stereotypes of life in totalitarian East Germany with a funny, charming tale of adolescents being adolescents, a portrait of a surprisingly warm community enduring in the shadow of the Iron Curtain.
This is my first translation. I have written two books: “Swedish Novelist Selma Lagerlöf, 1859-1940, and Germany at the Turn of the Century” (2004) and “Selma Lagerlöf ur tyskt perspektiv” (2002); edited “German Milwaukee” (2009, pictured); and also co-edited “Scandinavia and Germany: Cross-Cultural Currents” (2009). I have also published several articles and book chapters.
I hope more people will be exposed to this historical time period and to the humor of Thomas Brussig. Brussig certainly deserves to be better known in this country.
As I said, I teach German reunification, both on campus and as a study abroad course. My research is also veering into this realm—reunification and its impact on Germans.
What was your favorite part of the writing/editing process?
Working with and learning from Jonathan Franzen.
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- Publisher: Picador Paper (April 4, 2023)
- Language: English
- Paperback: 160 pages
- ISBN-10: 1250878993
- ISBN-13: 978-1250878991