The Berlin-based organization InterKontinetal is behind a major translation project in German literature. It is releasing German translation of three novels by some of Africa’s finest — Ugandan author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s second novel The First Woman, Nigerian author A. Igoni Barrett’s debut novel Blackass, and Botswanan author Lauri Kubuitsile’s historical novel The Scattering. These tiles are scheduled for publishing on 25 August, 2022.
InterKontinental is a multi-faceted platform that includes a bookshop for African books, regular book readings and events, and, perhaps most notably, the annual African Book Festival Berlin which has been headlined by the likes of Ben Okri, Jose Eduardo Agualusa and, recently, Margaret Busby. But adding publishing to its many hats, it expands the impact of African literature is perceived in the German literary market.
The three novels in its debut catalogue have all been impactful publications. Makumbi’s The First Woman, a follow-up to her groundbreaking debut Kintu, is a feminist re-imagining of Ugandan mythology. It centers a girl’s yearning for her unknown mother, and her precarious journey to make sense of her identity. A Brittle Paper Notable Book of 2020, it was awarded the 2021 Jhalak Prize, among other honors. The novel was published in the UK by Oneworld, and in the US under the title “A Girl is a Body of Water.” The German translation is done by Alakati Neidhardt.
Barrett’s Blackass, set in Lagos, is a modern-day satire about decolonization, loved by fans for its retelling of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis through the lens of race. The novel was first published in the UK in 2015 by Chatto & Windus and in Nigeria by Farafina. The German translation is done by Venice Trommer.
Kubuitsile’s The Scattering, translated by Ivana Maurovic and Maria Meinel, takes on German colonialism in Africa through the eyes of two women whose fight for survival unites them. The novel was first published in South Africa in 2016 by Penguin Random House South Africa. Film rights have already been acquired by a German production company.
Also on their list is a collection of bilingual essays titled Kann das denn Liebe sein? | Could This Be Love?, by 15 writers from across the continent exploring interracial love. Edited by Stefanie Hirsbrunner and including a foreword by Emilia Roig, the collection features contributions from such writers as Jude Dibia, Kalaf Epalanga, and Clementine E. Burnley.
Kudos to InterKontinental for strengthening the foothold of African literature in Germany.
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