Parallel Text German Short Stories

German Short Stories 1
German Short Stories 2
Short Stories in German

Richard Newnham, David Constantine + Ernst Zillekens (editors)

translated from the German
Penguin 1964, 1976, 2003
A book review by Danny Yee © 2012
These three volumes of short stories follow the same format, with the original German text on the left-hand page facing an English translation on the right.

The stories have been chosen not on pedagogical grounds but for their literary interest and the translations, by different translators for each story, are idiomatic rather than word-for-word. This makes these collections potentially interesting to the general reader, or at least to anyone curious about post-war German literature and culture.

The stories are almost entirely from the second half of the 20th century: Newnham's volume, published in 1964, covers the immediate post-war period; Constantine's, from 1976, doesn't provide publication dates but seems to spread itself a little further backwards as well as forwards; and Zillekens' focuses on the last two decades of the 20th century. There are some big names here — Heinrich Böll and Thomas Bernhard among others — but anyone after the older classics will need to look elsewhere.

The obvious readers of such dual language books are German language learners. The selected writers have a broad range of styles, some of them quite difficult, and, while the translations stick fairly closely to the structure of the German, there are exceptions: full comprehension can require some thought and occasionally the use of a dictionary. So as a language learning tool these books are not suitable for beginners, or even intermediate learners more focused on the spoken language. For advanced students, however, these parallel stories nicely serve their purpose, which is to allow a learner to read more extensively and rapidly than if forced to consult a dictionary regularly, and to give them a feel for the variety of German literary language.

Each editor provides a brief introduction to their collection, but these mostly just explain the lack of any equivalent of the English "short story" in the German literary tradition, perhaps with a sentence about each of the stories. There is no attempt at linguistic assistance, with brief endnotes only explaining some regional or idiomatic usages. A little more background would have been nice: a brief biography of each of the authors and something about the context of each story's publication, perhaps with some discussion of its style and relative difficulty for learners.

June 2012

External links:
German Short Stories 1: Penguin Parallel Texts
- buy from or
- buy from Wordery
German Short Stories 2: Penguin Parallel Texts
- buy from or
Short Stories in German: New Penguin Parallel Texts
- buy from or
- buy from Wordery
Related reviews:
- M. Charlotte Wolf - Great German Short Stories of the Twentieth Century
- books about the German language
- more German literature
- more short fiction
%T German Short Stories 1
%S Penguin Parallel Texts
%Y Parallel Text German Short Stories
%E Newnham, Richard
%M German
%I Penguin
%D 1964
%O paperback, dual language
%G ISBN-13 9780140020403
%P 171pp

%T German Short Stories 2
%S Penguin Parallel Texts
%Y Parallel Text German Short Stories
%E Constantine, David
%I Penguin
%D 1976
%O paperback, dual language
%G ISBN 0140041192
%P 287pp

%T Short Stories in German
%S New Penguin Parallel Texts
%Y Parallel Text German Short Stories
%E Zillekens, Ernst
%I Penguin
%D 2003
%O paperback, dual language
%G ISBN-13 9780140265422
%P 188pp