Favourite German Books – Part #0.5 : Why I Read Books in English

German books 2Recently I have started to read more German fiction again – only a bit – but that inspired me to blog about my favourite German books. But then I sat down, motivated to do one blogpost about this and it quickly exploded into five posts so whoops. This week will only be a preliminary ramble about why I actually read so much in English. The posts that actually contain books will come on Sundays in March.

I am actually German. I hope that’s not too obvious by my English *flails* Nevertheless, most of the books I read I read in English. This hasn’t always been the case, of course. In school I read everything in German, unless it was for English class and even then, I’m pretty sure that for homework I preferred the German translation of Hamlet in the bilingual edition we read in my English class. It just saved a lot of time, sorry, Ms Schulz. But when I started university and met the boyfriend who had been reading English books for forever (perspective of a 20 year-old talking here) I got interested and started to read English fiction in English.

If you know the German book market you will know that a considerable amount of books are translated works, mainly from English. And now with English also becoming more and more prevalent in German everyday lives, some translations just don’t sound German anymore (although that has probably always been a problem, but my guess is that it has become more pronounced in recent years). By now it has actually become pretty easy just by reading the first page of a book to determine whether a book was translated from English.

And due to the hipness of mainly American pop culture, German books are even starting to emulate this weird English German which is just so CRINGE because although Germans certainly enjoy (German dubbed) American TV shows or movies, it also sounds so unnatural when written down. Dear German authors, it’s fine to use High German. English sounding German will not make it cooler but more ridiculous and will just make it seem like you watch too many Hollywood-movies. And let’s not even talk about German authors not being able to write correct German but starting to translate English sentences into German, resulting in wrong prepositions in German and everything. *Gollum torture noises*

I ramble. Basically, you know how they say that every book loses in translation? Yeah, with reading English books in English I forgo that dilemma. Unfortunately, as you now know, even German books are starting to sound English so I can’t forgo that dilemma for German fiction and how fucked up is that. This is why you should read classics! *sobs silently*

Another reason to read English books in English: In Germany we have fixed prices for books in German. That means, every German books costs the same whether you buy it on Amazon or in your local book store and this has been claimed to be one of the reasons why the German book (store) market is not going down the drain as fast as elsewhere. We even have fixed prices for ebooks, which for me means if I want to read a German book and have the choice between the 25€ hardback edition, the 12€ paperback edition and the 10€ ebook, I go to the library and get it for free, let’s be honest here.

Some German Books

For English books there are no fixed prices, which means that you usually get them for a lot cheaper than German books, and if it’s an English original also a lot faster because translations take a while! Basically I’m what’s wrong with the world and the perfect example of a greedy customer. But yeah. Those are the reasons why I read books in English.

Anyway, I thought I would introduce some German books that I love to you in March – should you ever take it on you to learn German to read these in their original I can only recommend them (although the classics are probably not the easiest place to start). Keep in mind, I cannot tell you anything about good translations into English, but I’m sure other people have opinions on that. The schedule I am planning on so far is the following (I will add links as soons as there are some):

Sun, 08 March: Favourite German Classics – E.T.A. Hoffmann
Sun, 15 March: Favourite German Classics – Goethe, Storm, Lessing
Sun, 22 March: Favourite German Moderns – Children’s, MG, YA
Sun, 29 March: Favourite German Moderns – Adult

tl;dr: I read English books in English to forgo crappy translations, because they are cheaper and out earlier and ooh look – I have a schedule for next month!

I hope you will find this “series” interesting, and maybe even take away one or the other book recommendation.

Stay inky! – Lena

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3 thoughts on “Favourite German Books – Part #0.5 : Why I Read Books in English

  1. I think us who don’t have English as our first language (mine’s Finnish) often have this problem. If you know the original English construction or phrase, you’re more likely to spot it when it’s used in your mother tongue. I, too, often forgo the Finnish translation and read the English original instead – which is a bit twisted because I’m studying translation.
    Anyways, I’m definitely interested to hear about your favourites and hopefully I’ll get the chance to read some of them!

    • Aw thank you!

      That might be a good explanation why I have been noticing “bad” translations more and more. Maybe it’s just because I read so much English. I had never thought about that before…

      My boyfriend is studying translation as well and he has the same problem as you. He should be reading more books in his mothertongue but reads in English all the time. (And his translation language isn’t even English, it’s Korean xD so it’s probably even worse)

  2. Pingback: Favourite German Books (Part #1): Classics – E.T.A. Hoffmann | Study in Ink

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