Translating Canada. Charting the Institutions and Influences of Cultural Transfer: Canadian Writing in German/y

Article excerpt

Luise von Flotow and Reingard M. Nischik (eds), Translating Canada. Charting the Institutions and Influences of Cultural Transfer: Canadian Writing in German/y (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2007), 352pp. Paper. $40. ISBN 9780776606613.

The volume edited by Luise von Flotow and Reingard M. Nischik represents the best collective study of Canadian literature translated into German. Ambitious in its design and comprehensive in its coverage of a range of literary genres, it constitutes an evaluative assessment of funding, publishing, marketing and reviewing Canadian authors in Germany between 1967 and the 2000s. The collection traces the contribution of Canadian cultural institutions, German funding bodies, German publishers and translators, and German academics towards successfully promoting Canadian literature; and reinforces translation as a major means of cultural diplomacy.

Although not explicitly arranged in clear-cut sections, the essays focus on Canadian short stories, novels, drama and criticism; on Native Canadian writing; on Jewish Canadian writing; and on English/French-Canadian children's literature. Varied in focus and in emphasising cultural policies, the essays underline the interplay between the production, distribution and reception of Canadian literature in Germany.

Luise von Flotow's opening essay 'Telling Canada's "Story" in German: Using Cultural Diplomacy to Achieve Soft Power' and Klaus Peter Müller's study, 'Translating the Canadian Short Story into German', suggest that short stories constitute the literary genre which German 'cultural workers' have primarily promoted since 1960. Klaus Peter Müller examines factors which enabled the successful promotion of Canadian literature in Germany, such as the exotic otherness of Canada; ethnicity; regionalism; representations of Canada as a contemporary (post)modern nation; Canadian authors' popularity; and the texts' literary qualities. Coupled together, these two essays outline the role which power brokers (i.e. the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Canadian Embassy in Berlin or the Goethe Institute) have played in nation branding and in consecrating Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Anne Michaels and Carol Shields as literary celebrities in Germany. …