Haven’t made it through Robert Musil’s The Man without Qualities? Try Agathe, or the Forgotten Sister, in a new translation by Joel Agee. Its 36 chapters are “a novel within the novel,” zeroing in on the unusual love story between Ulrich and Agathe.  (The New York Times, 12/5/19; The Paris Review, 1/8/20)

“In a country where 20th-century history weighs heavily, Fontane offers a long gaze on the landscape.” Theodor Fontane was born 200 years ago, on December 30, 1819. (The Guardian, 12/20/19)

“Neither scientific study nor psychoanalytic text, ‘The Third Reich of Dreams’ is a collective diary, a witness account hauled out of a nation’s shadows and into forensic light.”  (The New Yorker, 11/7/19)

Anna Funder looks back on Stasiland, seventeen years after it was first published: “My great mistake was to imagine that the stories I was finding would be well received by Germans.”  (The Monthly, Dec. 2019/Jan. 2020)

“There’s a reason why Adorno’s defenders might gravitate toward depression, unpleasantness, or both: his world is a huge bummer. But so is ours.”  (The Baffler, 11/22/19)

“Monsters lurk in the Nietzschean deep. It cannot be a random mishap that so many unpleasant people have taken pleasure in his work.”   (The New Yorker, 10/7/19)

“I didn’t want to learn tourist or business German, I wanted to read poetry.” Author Margaret Drabble explains why it’s never too late to appreciate a new language.  (The Paris Review, 11/14/19)

Julia Franck, Heike Geissler, Maxim Leo, Norman Ohler, and Bernhard Schlink look back on the opening of the Berlin Wall and its aftermath. (The Observer, 11/3/19)

“Inadvertently or not, most of today’s far right speak in Heideggerian terms: lamenting the rootlessness of modern life and the ravishing of national character by the liberal world order; longing for a lost social harmony between land and people.”  (New Statesman, 9/11/19)

“He is a fine writer, who combines great insight with shocking ethical blindness.” The world of arts and letters is stunned by the Swedish Academy’s decision to award Peter Handke the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature.  (The Guardian, 10/10/19; The New Republic, 10/10/19;

Whether we needed them or not, there are two new Hitler biographies out in 2019.  (The Guardian, 9/27/19; The New York Times, 9/29/19)

In Thomas Mann’s War: Literature, Politics, and the World Republic of Letters, Tobias Boes retraces Thomas Mann’s journey from nonpolitical man to anti-fascist public intellectual.  (The National Interest, 8/14/19; National Review, 12/5/19)

Every translation is also a reinterpretation. Here’s how German literary translators are dealing with the linguistic and political pitfalls in Huckleberry Finn, Gone with the Wind, the works of James Baldwin, and more.  (Deutsche Welle, 9/30/19)

Adorno was right—you can buy a t-shirt that says so. Peter E. Gordon  examines the Frankfurt School thinker’s legacy, fifty years after his death.  (The New York Review of Books, 8/5/19)

“Gabriele Tergit wrote Käsebier in 1931, but its depictions of fake news, sudden stardom, and bitter culture wars between left and right feel unnervingly contemporary.” So it’s very good news that translator Sophie Duvernoy has brought us Käsebier Takes Berlin in 2019. (The Paris Review, 7/30/19)

Empty Hearts by Juli Zeh (translated by John Cullen) “has the veneer of a thriller but it’s more accurate to call it a chiller: chilling in the accuracy of its satire and chilling in its diagnosis of our modern malaise.”  (The New York Times, 7/26/19)

Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself, Florian Huber’s history of the suicide epidemic that accompanied the end of Nazi Germany, has now been published in English, in a translation by Imogen Taylor.  (The Guardian, 6/20/19; The Economist, 7/11/19)

Else Ury’s ‘Nesthäkchen’ books for young readers “sold millions of copies from 1918 to 1933. Then, with the Nazis in power, she was barred as a Jew for publishing her work, even though her last book featured Adolf Hitler as a hero.” She died at Auschwitz in 1943.  (The New York Times, 7/10/19)

Dystopian fiction about Brexit Britain has become a German literary trend.  (The Guardian, 6/30/19)

Audre Lorde, the black feminist lesbian poet who “played a pivotal role in the birth of the Afro-German identity movement,” spent formative years in Berlin during the 1980s and early 90s, before her untimely death.  (The New York Times, 7/19/19)

“When people discuss together, in conditions free of domination, there is an assumption that it is possible to reach a consensus, by what Habermas calls ‘the pressureless pressure of the better argument.‘ That almost no arguments in real life are actually like this is part of Habermas’s point.”  (New Statesman, 6/26/19)

Fake news! In 1963, Hans Traxler concocted an elaborate literary hoax about the real Hansel and Gretel.  (Atlas Obscura,  7/3/19)

“Bachmann’s vision is so original that the effect is like having a new letter of the alphabet.” Ingeborg Bachmann’s 1971 novel Malina has a fresh translation by Philip Boehm.  (The Nation, 6/18/19; The Guardian, 6/29/19)

“In Elvia Wilk’s ‘Oval,’ Berlin is where the late capitalist apocalypse finally happens.”  (The Nation, 6/4/19; NPR, 6/7/19)

“Tell me who your enemy is, and I will tell you who you are”: The anti-liberalism of legal theorist Carl Schmitt is making a comeback.  (Financial Times, 1/11/19; New Statesman, 4/10/19)

Tim Bouverie’s new history of the road to World War II depicts the evolution of appeasement “from a reactive, fearful policy to an enthusiastic, idealistic project to what can only be deemed a strenuous exercise in willful denial.”  (The Guardian, 4/14/19; The New York Times, 6/4/19)

Now you, too, can hike vicariously with Nietzsche and philosophy professor John Kaag.  (The Atlantic, 10/2018; The Guardian, 4/10/19)