George R.R. Martin interviewed on German TV – and a bit about Fifty Shades of Grey and its influence on the romance genre

This made my day yesterday. German literary critic Dennis Scheck interviews George R.R. Martin. Watch out for Martin talking about readers complaining about sex scenes, but not about graphic violence.

Dennis Scheck also points out that A Song of Ice and Fire is twice as long in German, namely ten books to date rather than five. The reason is that an English text translated into German tends to be approx. 20 percent longer than the original. This isn’t much of a problem with short stories, but can quickly add up with Martin sized doorstoppers. Hence it is common practice for German publishers to split very big fantasy novels in two for translation. Robert Jordan’s/Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time cycle, already a monster of a series in English, is twice as monstrous in German.

Are those by any chance figurines of the characters in the background? In that case, me want. Some of them at any rate. I wouldn’t want Joffrey, Theon Greyjoy, Littlefinger or Gregor Clegane in any form.

Dennis Scheck is the only one of our major literary critics who’s genre friendly and who sometimes plugs genre novels (e.g. Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind). But I still wonder how he managed to persuade the TV station to broadcast a ten minute interview with a fantasy writer. It’s not even that they’re trying to plug the Game of Thrones TV show, since that airs on a different channel. Still, a great interview and it made up for the fact that the other interview in the show was with an incredibly unlikable woman whose novel is nominated for the German book award. She’ll probably win, too, cause it’s exactly the sort of book that always wins.

Dennis Scheck’s comments on the top ten books on the German bestseller list were about the non-fiction list this month, so we did not get to hear his caustic comments about Fifty Shades of Grey. Though his comments on the top ten non-fiction bestsellers are still well worth watching, particularly for the way he calls a memoir about pregnancy and childbirth “a literary abortion”. Honestly, even the grouchiest British and American critics have nothing on German literary critics with regard to caustic comments.

Nonetheless, Fifty Shades of Grey is the book and subject that refuses to die. Now The Opionated Geeks wonder whether Fifty Shades of Grey is destroying publishing. I doubt that it’s going to destroy publishing, particularly not considering that the trilogy is selling extremely well. But it may well harm the romance genre and plunge it back into a world of controlling alpha heroines and virginal doormats that we hoped the genre had left behind with the “bodiceripper” era.

On a related note, The All About Romance blog has a post on the Cinderella fantasy, i.e. a rich hero paired with an average or downright poor heroine, and wonders why this fantasy is so enduring. I’ve already explained at length why the Cinderella fantasy doesn’t work for me in this post. Still, it seems to work for a lot of other people.

Finally, the Emmy Awards have been given out last night. Lots of love for Homeland as well as a miniseries about Sarah Palin and one about two feuding families in the 19th century West, none of which I have seen or have any desire to see. No love for Girls, the HBO show that seems to be the current critical darling of pop cultural commentary, and not a whole lot of love for Downton Abbey (about time) and Mad Men. Meanwhile, my personal favourites, namely the nominations for Luther, Sherlock, Game of Thrones and Harry’s Law, did not win. But then, I’ve known for a long time that Emmy voters have very different ideas of good TV than I do.

Though judging by the wins for Homeland and that Sarah Palin miniseries (and Breaking Bad, too, though I hate that show), the US finally seems to have overcome the nostalgia obsession that marked last year’s Emmys and Oscars.

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4 Responses to George R.R. Martin interviewed on German TV – and a bit about Fifty Shades of Grey and its influence on the romance genre

  1. Pingback: 50 Shades of Grey – Why Does Christian Fall for Anastasia?

  2. I never knew that about German translations. How interesting… suppose you can make twice as much money that way. Works out for publishers, I guess!

    I’m with you on the Emmys, by the way. I love Sherlock and Game of Thrones especially… I feel they were snubbed. Also, I’m glad I’m not the only person who hates Breaking Bad… although I think we’ve had this conversation before.

    • Cora says:

      I’m pretty sure that even a lot of Germans are not aware of this, since the publishers don’t exactly advertise the fact that you only get half a book for the same price with certain series. I stumbled onto this practice by accident, when I gave a translated edition of China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station to a friend for Christmas. And later, when I asked her how she liked it, she said, “It’s a very good book, but that cliffhanger was so annoying.” And I thought, “Huh? What cliffhanger?” So I checked out the book I had given her and realized that it was only half of Perdido Street Station, even though the German edition was about the same size as the English edition (German paperbacks tend to have better paper and bigger type than US paperbacks, too, which adds to the thickness). Though at least I had no problem deciding what to give her for her birthday.

      About the Emmys, I’m consistently surprised how much Sherlock and Luther (which I highly recommend, if you haven’t seen it yet), are snubbed in the US, while everybody loves the IMO rather insipid Downton Abbey. As for Game of Thrones, at least Peter Dinklage would have deserved an Emmy. Of course, he did win last year, but then Tyrion was even better in season 2 and Jon Hamm or Tony Shalhoub won several times in a row as well. I also think Game of Thrones was the best of the shows in the running in the best drama category.

      And yes, I think we did discuss Breaking Bad before. I’ll never understand why that show is so highly acclaimed, since the characters are unlikable and I’m not a fan of glamorizing drug dealers.

  3. Pingback: The German Book Award or Let’s all praise middle class mediocrity | Cora Buhlert

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