German prizewinners 2016

In previous posts we pointed out how literary prizes are useful for our collection development. By acquiring prizewinning works we document the evolving canon of German literature.  In this post I will present a selection of German literary prizes awarded recently.

Arguably the most prestigious prize for German language literature is the Georg-Büchner-Preis. The 2016 prize was awarded by the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung to Marcel Beyer for his rich work which ranges from the epic to the lyric and essayistic. The Akademie said that “his texts devote themselves to the representation of the German past with the same precise dedication with which they trace the sound of the present time. They pursue a poetic geography, which is always also an exploration of language”. The latest works acquired by the University Library are his poetry collection Graphit (C203.d.8391) published in 2014 and his collection of essays Sie nannten es Sprache (C204.d.7081) published in 2016. Continue reading

A friend of Bonhoeffer in Cambridge

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Portrait from front cover of Dr Franz Hildebrandt: Mr Valiant-for-Truth (145:9.c.200.5)

Continuing my mini-series of blogs about German speakers who spent time in Cambridge (see earlier posts on Wittgenstein and Bucer) I am moving on to Franz Hildebrandt (1909-1985), pastor and theologian and friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, founding member of the Bekennende Kirche in Nazi Germany. Continue reading

It’s a matter of taste

Front cover of Pazaurek's book (

Front cover of Pazaurek’s book (9009.c.1759)

I recently catalogued an interesting book published over 100 years ago: Guter und schlechter Geschmack im Kunstgewerbe by Gustav Pazaurek (a complete online version is available here).The cover is striking with its stylish lettering but it was the subject matter of good and bad taste in applied arts that drew me in and made me want to find out more. I discovered that in 1909 Pazaurek (1865-1935) had set up a “cabinet of bad taste” (Abteilung der Geschmacksverirrungen) within the Landesgewerbemuseum Stuttgart where he was director until 1932. He came up with a complex system for categorising bad taste and this system was fully outlined in the book under four broad headings:

  • Material mistakes: this included inferior or damaged materials, bizarre materials such as objects made from hair, fish scales etc
  • Design mistakes: this included objects that were unsuitable for their purpose, fantasy designs, frivolous inventions, forgeries etc
  • Decorative mistakes: this included odd proportions, extreme decoration etc
  • Kitsch: this included cheap mass-produced rubbish

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Part shoemaker, part actor

In December 2015 we posted a piece about translator Ralph Manheim, written by his widow Julia Allen-Manheim. At the same time Mrs Allen-Manheim presented the Library with several of Ralph Manheim’s unpublished literary translations of texts by authors such as Arthur Schnitzler, Ödön von Horváth and Christoph Hein. (Enquire in Manuscripts Reading Room for MS Add. 10108.) The donation also includes the typescript of an unpublished lecture Ralph Manheim gave at Indiana University on November 4 1981, which gives a fascinating description of his life as a literary translator, and includes references to Michel Tournier, Rainer Maria Rilke, Adolf Hitler, Thomas Mann, Karl Jaspers, Ernst Cassirer, Bertolt Brecht, Louis Ferdinand Céline and Peter Handke. The following extracts give a flavour of the whole …

— Unpublished literary translations of texts

“I say I drifted into it [i.e. the trade of literary translator]. If that sounds disparaging, I’d like to correct that impression. One can drift into good things as well as bad. I think very highly of the trade. As I see it, a literary translator is part shoemaker and part actor. Shoemaker because he works alone and much of his effort goes into craftsmanship, into motions that he masters by repetition and testing; actor because if he takes his work seriously he has to impersonate his author…

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Grouping material by subject

It was only with the closure of the Guardbook for 1978 imprints, and the introduction of a new cataloguing code accompanied by Library of Congress subject headings, that serious attempts were made to analyse the subject content of each item acquired by the University Library. Up until that point subject analysis had been minimal – access points for material about a named individual, and for grammars, dictionaries, encyclopaedias and volumes of conference proceedings, without using a controlled vocabulary. For much of its earlier history, the only consideration of subject which took place was in determining where to place each item on the shelves.

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