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A Common Reader takes a look at Wilhelm Genazino's The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt:


I read The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt while relaxing in a snow-bound hotel in Northern France... I like books that create previously unheard of occupations for their main characters (Anne Tyler is also adept at this) and the concept of a shoe-tester is up there with the best - being paid to walk all day around the city of Frankfurt testing up-market shoes and writing reports for the manufacturers. Of course, the job is a pretext for a meandering dissertation on life and its unliveability - for the narrator is a true existentialist, living at the sharp-end where nothing is a given, and the everyday is seen in its remarkability as though through eyes just born to this planet ("through the open door I once again hear the little noises the birds make as their tiny feathered bodies take off with a dense and compact flutter").

A Common Reader (a blog I only found out about this morning after noticing Tom had left a comment here yesterday and which has now duly been added to BritLitBlogs) also brings my attention to the fact there are now at least three English translations of Thomas Mann on the market.


I have the Vintage Classics Manns and my copy of e.g. Doctor Faustus has an unsigned translator's note (!) and is a translation that dates from 1949 (just two years after it was published in German). I know that David Luke translated their Death in Venice, but I'm presuming that Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter who, according to wikipedia, "enjoyed the exclusive right to translate the works of Thomas Mann from German into English for more than twenty years" must have rendered the versions of Doctor Faustus, The Magic Mountain and Buddenbrooks that I own. The Manns that Tom brings my attention to are new(ish -- 1990s I think) translations by John E. Woods (some of which are available in lovely Everyman editions). You can find out a bit more about Woods at the Goethe-Institut USA and Random House in the States tells me:


John E. Woods is the distinguished translator of many books -- most notably Arno Schmidt's Evening Edged in Gold, for which he won both the American Book Award for translation and the PEN Translation Prize; Patrick Suskind's Perfume, for which he again won the PEN Translation Prize in 1987; Mr. Suskind's The Pigeon and Mr. Summer's Story; Doris Dorrie's Love, Pain, and the Whole Damn Thing and What Do You Want from Me?; and Libuse Monikova's The Facade.

Readers Comments

  1. Frank Peterson Monday 05 May 2008

    Francis Steegmuller was one of the best I've ever seen in translation and Lowe-Porter I believe translated Mann.

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