Issue 7

Table of Contentsfor Issue 7

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), Father of Translation Theory

Cover illustration: Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), Father of Translation Theory

With this, the 7th issue of no man’s land, we find ourselves just shy of the 100 mark – since 2006 we’ve published fiction and poetry by nearly one hundred contemporary German-language writers. We owe a great debt of thanks to the many talented and passionate translators who’ve submitted their work, giving us the chance to publish excerpts from some of the most talked-about new German novels, introducing us to fascinating insider tips, or giving us ever-new looks at writers we know and love. (And we’re very grateful to the authors, translators and publishers for allowing us to print their work free of charge.) Seven years in, we’re continually struck by the range of submissions we receive, the discoveries of new, often very young talents and the rediscoveries of unique and outstanding figures. It is a privilege to present what are in many cases the first English translations of these writers’ work. We’re sometimes asked whether we’d consider broadening no man’s land’s scope to include works from the full historical spectrum of German literature – but time and again we find that we have a constantly-evolving embarrassment of riches as it is.

Issue # 7 skews novelistic, with a wealth of excerpts illustrating the formal and thematic range of the contemporary German novel. Kemal Kurt couples Molly Bloom and Gregor Samsa, while Clemens J. Setz takes us on a surreal tour of the Clemens J. Setz Archive. Thomas Stangl transports us to a 19th-century Timbuktu of hallucinatory vividness, Antje Ravic Strubel to a remote Swedish island rife with enigmatic tensions. Thomas von Steinaecker offers a devastatingly deadpan take on the Zeitgeist of financial and natural catastrophe. And Steven Uhly relates his Grandma’s murder plans. In addition, the issue includes short fiction by young talents Christian Helm and Johanna Hemkentokrax.

As we welcome back Arne Rautenberg, Ulrike Almut Sandig and Lutz Seiler, new poets in this issue include Sylvia Geist and Katharina Schultens, with their very different fusions of poetic and scientific language, joined by Dagmara Kraus’ flights of linguistic invention and Judith Zander’s evocative tableaux. We’re also very pleased to feature a selection of poems by Rebecca Ciesielski, Tabea Xenia Magyar, Tristan Marquardt, and Lea Schneider, members of g13 – this collective of young poets is a fine example of the vital grassroots infrastructure of the Berlin literary scene that gave rise to no man’s land itself.

Sharmila Cohen, Isabel Cole, Katy Derbyshire, Alistair Noon:  Editors, no man’s land



Issue 7

poems by Rebecca Ciesielski, Tabea Xenia Magyar, Tristan Marquardt and Lea Schneider

Periodic Song (excerpt)

gingko leaf fairy tale

lake geneva
antique frustum
be brave, moon

untitled poem

I keep your secrets very close
nothing has happened something’s taken place
there’d be the possibility of a mix-up at any time

as if
lighting the way home


Clown Cheeryouup

Midsummer Night

Yes, says Molly

The Beating Heart of the Collection

The One Place

The Year I Stopped Worrying and Started to Dream

When Days Plunge into Night

My Pickled Life

About the cover – Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin

Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (German: 15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940) was a German Jewish philosopher and cultural critic…. Among Benjamin’s best known works are the essays “The Task of the Translator” (1923), “The Work of Art in the Age of  Mechanical Reproduction” (1936) and “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1940). – Wikipedia

poems by Rebecca Ciesielski, Tabea Xenia Magyar, Tristan Marquardt and Lea Schneider

Author: Rebecca Ciesielski, Tabea Xenia Magyar, Tristan Marquardt, Lea Schneider
Translator: Kurt Beals

with a bit of training i pull a mountain chain loose from its anchor
arrange it in a ring around a flock of south-bound crows

it’s trapped now enters attack formation
shows determination you can feel it too
the day breaks away all the animals tear at natural constants

the greater part of a topography
doesn’t make it to the other side
groups of flies burst through the cloud cover
a treeline builds up its artillery under rainfire

when atolls block access to the sea
horizon lines are safer than usual run aground
is the goal a war we can’t win

the eighth day is monday again
children’s hands grasp at meridians get caught in the coordinates
stuff their parents’ pockets with apples and steel

every morning that follows i admire my inventory numbers
then i wait with outstretched palms to see what comes

Original © Rebecca Ciesielski


roisterous wooden animal. rattling a wooden pyramid
that’s covered all over in little pointy things.
they’re wooden too. this beast, it’s only halfway tame. keeps shaking,
such that the things fall into its throat. to eat of the pyramid,
pieces at least, ’tis a good thing, it thinks to itself.
at least it’s thinking, you’d like to say, but right now it’s unclear
if that’s true. if that’s the right bridle, if it wouldn’t be better
to give the creature an audio guide. an igloo, too,
a couple of heat pumps – some sort of house, anyway.
meanwhile it’s still squatting at the supports in a victim pose, demanding
and demanding, you could make lists of them, it just wouldn’t be satisfied.

Original © Tabea Xenia Magyar


legs like a trellis, as if the trees had forgotten how to
walk. scrape at the bark, try to remember. as the
prisoner opened his mouth, natural science fell silent:
prepared foliage that spread across the facades, windows,
the finest air supplies for a zoology of plants. cells.
or clearings from above, the forest’s erogenous zones,
whose relocation entices you to stay: the tissues had
barely begun their sit-in when the outer layers started
sprouting leaves: the buildings’ skin, skinning, a tamed
green, pulled on its fur and kept on warming. protecting
the memory of pain. scarring over the opened sites.

Original © Tristan Marquardt


the roofs from up above resettled clouds
small animals that slowly creep into the sky
and freeze. light-shy. they share the right
of all things to remain silent. when night comes
the streetcar climbs into its burrow and sleeps.
protective posture. until monday, when a man
will come again collecting milk teeth, he pays well.
sometimes he sips at leftover fears
that no one wants to rent out and tells
of tracks eaten through the wood, high-pressure areas
beyond the highway, the recurring nightmare
that someone planted him upside-down
his branches felt the movement of birds
in the earth, breaking out bound for up above

Original © Lea Schneider

Translations © Kurt Beals

Periodic Song (excerpt)

Author: Sylvia Geist
Translator: Catherine Hales


not discovered
but foretold somehow (de humore acido…) how solitary
the meerschaum

shatters. vapour!
letterpress metal sacrificed melting (bending) down skimming the
puddle left

in water
hardness something else. leaving us with the crystalline
beauty of

a word
its syllables mining meaning making it matter. crazily
sparking chippings


her hundred-year-laugh
when she read the day’s reports from my
hand. my yellow sweat. autumn whispering

in the
courtyard and those minus multiplications giving me hell
why plus? at night incremental growth

hurting the
bones want to show she laughed. that’s why.
I still believed in father’s wrath

and MGM
talking bushes endlessly burning without smoke but not
her constantly saying it’s happening now


for ever.
for ever the horror by day the night-time
years of children the growing pains

in autumn
the minus of bushes bearing fruit for ever
and the calorific value of the

bones of
dried fruit consumed in sweetness and meal – all
that’s swallowed completely for ever too

by the
courtyard and the wrath-hand’s laughter and this cinnabar’s
sweating – its giving up – its red.


Originals © Sylvia Geist
Translations © Catherine Hales

gingko leaf fairy tale

Author: Arne Rautenberg
Translator: Ken Cockburn

gingko leaf fairy tale

once upon a time
there was a gingko leaf
which i put inside
a copy of grimms’
fairy tales thirty
years ago and forgot
recently i opened
the book again
and saw the gingko
leaf right in
the middle of
the frog prince
brown and beautiful
as if at the time
of art nouveau
someone had sketched
a mushroom cloud
considering the
leaf i lost
the desire to read
and closed the book
again knowing
the gingko leaf
and the book
would live together
happily every after




Starfish dying: their
Inconceivably tender
Tread on the rocks.
On the bicycle
A butterfly’s wing brushes
My clean-shaven chin.
The sculpture at night
In the beams of the ground-spots
The frogs are chilling.
We use chopsticks.
The staff eat with
Knives and forks.
The ladybird
On the hibiscus flower
In the ashtray.
Outside the ice-cream shop
The pavement’s covered in black
Dots of chewing-gum.
As the train crosses over
The kestrel is still
Hanging in the air.
The gust of wind that’s
Ruffling the squirrel’s fur as
Its claws grip the tree.
Cackhanded bumblebee
Whacking your furry torso
Bang into the bench!
The dangerous step
Down the coffin-bearers have
To negotiate.


Originals © Arne Rautenberg
Translations © Ken Cockburn

lake geneva
antique frustum
be brave, moon

Author: Dagmara Kraus
Translator: Joshua Daniel Edwin

lake geneva

fairday rigging; thawed, griefclotted. we

eat bickberries beneath the mast, which parts

in two your view of the waterfront.

bared footslaps on the quay. gullsplash
in prow-high bilge; death gusts quick across
the bay, a playboy with viewphobia—

the last buccaneer to haunt the hull.
skull peeled, flag bared, you hail our tartan
(your dark side facing us) AHOI.

the slip licks our pilings; scoop and stone
in murky blue. in the end and among the lilies
they will bier you out atop the mesa.

antique frustum

zoo-odor, agora. on the road to eleusis, i
zoomed in on a stray turtleshell, a marauder,
one of kore’s gang of maenad-servants—only rustic,
ages more ancient than the chalk-cliff coast
overhanging the temples, plaka’s stalls, bazaars,
tendered lavender in the deepest zoom
of any aperture—i thought: ruins, at any rate, mere
décor before meaningless blue-ground, and deleted
out of hand, all that was there, disordered
as tile-mosaic, from the chip in my japanesenikon:
kouroi torsos, stelea, temple; all brokenwinged
sphinxes, hermai, un-embellished fibulae,
the pale geometry of noses, calyx of nike,
all the shards, nine kinds of vases, attic
marriage-kareste; Priam’s treasure, heaped, and
so to speak, digitally bunkered—i swapped it all
for a grained skeletonbell, a humble
mime-drama ornament of tortoise-shell. i made
turtle-pictures, whole albums of them, sheer
huge volumes; as it shuffled unvarnished
through kerameikos’ potshards, this turtle,
fixed and dry; a saffronsootgray shieldback-
green, a strange bone in quasi-cupola
plate-arrangement; an old-athens athlete,
chitinous luck charm. a sign of growth for
my menagerie, kudus, ligers, bonobos, kusus,
horseshoe bats: all my hindered dears. and still
the shell crept further, it threatened stone-mimicry
so quickly I snapped again the scaly turtlehead
as it slipped smoothly cautiously away
in its sandpapered sort of sly stone-identity:
an antique memorial, anything but tame,
not even halftame, this revenant of phryne.

be brave, moon
(for a child)

                           i don’t understand how people
can write poems about the moon…
zbigniew herbert

pink pipsqueak: moonspy, dwarf
at midnight—fizzdapple, a sun-
disputing tricky dick, faintly lit and

distant. a clicker, ice-stone, you stray glossy
over the huge arc; loose eyelet, orphaned
on the starched collar of stark night

—drift-sand? blaze? didn’t david work you,
with his sling, high into the heavens’
braid, and steal orion’s fame?

i portioned out the nightbloom, made
myself a shift of it; with the brooch,
your halo, gathering the fabric—

how the gamma-owls will envy… and
the phillistine whose brow you chalk,
tiny pill-star, now has twice no clout

Originals © Dagmara Kraus
Translations © Josh Edwin

untitled poem

Author: Ulrike Almut Sandig
Translator: Bradley Schmidt


I’ve heard it said there is a place
for all that’s disappeared,

like different sorts of apples
the clowns and gods, among them

even that Good God of Manhattan,
Karl Marx Stadt, Constantinople,

Banaras and Bombay, the names
of too many coal-mined ghost villages

can be found, I’ve heard it said,
in the middle of the white fir forest

that swallows every sound wave.
that place, I’ve heard it said,
can’t be found on any real map.


Original from Ulrike Almut Sandig, Dickicht © Schöffling & Co. Verlagsbuchhandlung GmbH, Frankfurt am Main 2011
Translation: © Bradley Schmidt 2012

I keep your secrets very close
nothing has happened something’s taken place
there’d be the possibility of a mix-up at any time

Author: Katharina Schultens
Translator: Catherine Hales


I don’t understand his hand’s bone structures
any more. there must be a cavity in there
where the tube goes in – an opening to the inside
of his gestures. all calculation. honey
dripping in from the spoon, & light.

lips pursed – not so bad. I’d love
to reach out my hand to him – still.
searching for intubations into the
conversation: change of scene
he waves with his white hand

along the aisles to the freezer
snow-covered forest soft humming
from behind the glass I’m sure all the bees
that have vanished are buzzing in that cavity
the warm transformer box their hive


I keep your secrets very close

Let me tell: I’m a spun yarn & you can take
a syllable away at any time or hang one on me
such as guilt. then I’m suddenly an english shrubbery
on a plain in a dream in which I can rustle
& whisper. intensively when the light shines through

red in branches: small apertures – now anyone
can hang up their secrets – I don’t care
how big or how banal. in any case they have
various filing options here in this structure.
their secrets are mostly small & white.

take on colour slowly & fix themselves to me
& get infected – until at some point everything falls
away. dispersion. seed. around me a circle
of leaves & a herd of small beasts. standing
upright pointed & remasculined –

lances without knights attached – I spin
around – my dress rustles – I whisper oh
you know – perhaps I’m the inside
of the filing cabinet when it closes.


nothing has happened something’s taken place

the pictures fanned out slats fingers
fitting singly in the gaps it’s a separation
of caresses as though you were letting down
a blind highly-controlled & cold. spread
this last time – light metal almost edges
skin this potential the rotation I didn’t say

anything. I’ve only divided something
into sections that were already there
with a movement that happened all
by itself seductively appropriate
to fit the available space – the image
disperses & deflects my eyes:

I turn my head here comes the refrain
with your hand taking turning & changing
nothing at all. just changing lane. slats
screwed in something momentous happening
just by-the-by as usual leaving behind the joints
in the structure & my discipline – it alters things –


there’d be the possibility of a mix-up at any time

if we were to hold the conditionals up to the light:
there’d be veins in them fine cracks
an epidermis patterned into stars
would be positioned over the ankles:

the conditionals
are not just any old ones but sinewy
scarred in places on the inside especially where
they begin. they’re busy making syntheses
without approval.

the conditionals
– and here’s the problem – take on lots
in parallel. in their surfaces courses
no lines aiming for a point instead
– cuts without consequences.

but you couldn’t have foreseen
how tenderly they’d strangle you.
they really didn’t mean
it. they’re still so little.


Originals © Katharina Schultens
Translations © Catherine Hales

as if
lighting the way home

Author: Lutz Seiler
Translator: Bradley Schmidt


as if

sinking in, whispering:
you still broadcast from the old wires
between the stations.
you shuffle through conversations

in the leaves, through the voices
rustling, heard
from outside, passing by: so
you pause. the night

begins at the house, hold
your tongue, the silence
in the eyes. as if

you had carefully
written up everything. as if
you had already died


lighting the way home

clear evenings while walking.
the steps, on the gravel,
on your feet once again
the mechanics of the stones

the pond is called iris lake.
the street: rail road.
the moonsighted algae are asleep
& lamps are
grasped by ivy.

you still do not
know that you exist, yet know
what happens, into the brittle darkness
the house empties


Originals from Lutz Seiler, im felderlatein © Suhrkamp Verlag Berlin 2010
Translations © Bradley Schmidt


Author: Judith Zander
Translator: Bradley Schmidt


albeit in the small hours behind sailor hill
the landscape interpreted and read
in this area bar code
of the ditches silver multipliers casual
ancestors of low voltage the livestock
comme il faut like
with glooming landscapes pre-artist colonial as
ever the choice
between two heavenly products one
halo humble cumili
a further horizon



half past three minus five
degrees my hair is a
city grass windswept I
am in the dregs
of the night are the trams non-
existent dragons
on the piles
of eyes crystals
form in the head
virtiginous sighs like
with ice when it secretly shifts


Originals from Judith Zander, oder tau
© Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH, München 2011
Translations © Bradley Schmidt

Clown Cheeryouup

Author: Christian Helm
Translator: Ingrid G. Lansford

The night had been cold, and in the morning, it started to rain. Paul pulled the frayed brown coat tighter around his body and his wool cap lower into his forehead. He tried to expel the cold from his fingers by blowing into his hands by turns while pushing the old shopping cart in front of him.
He longed to take a sip from the liquor bottle he could feel in his coat pocket, but knew that he must remain sober. He surveyed the gray street, the dark houses, and the gloomy sky, saw that the trees had lost their last leaves overnight, and listened to the wind gusts autumn was blowing through the streets.
He was sad. He hated what he saw, but was determined not to drink.
At the end of the street, he could make out the bright yellow of a telephone booth. In a moment he would call his ex-wife. She’d talk with him briefly as always, would exchange a few trivial words for the sole purpose of checking on his condition. And only if he passed this test satisfactorily would she allow his little daughter come to the phone.
Paul stepped into the telephone booth after carefully parking his shopping cart so that he could keep his eyes on it. All his property, everything he still owned, was in that shopping cart, and there were always teenagers who thought it was fun to grab his cart and pull out everything in it. They didn’t want to steal anything, as they considered its contents mere trash. They only meant to humiliate him, and he knew it. He had ceased to care long ago. After all, they were right. He didn’t deserve any better.
For the second time that morning he resisted the temptation of reaching for the liquor in his pocket. He dug up the change instead, and, with his trembling hand, fed the coins into the slot. Then he punched the number and listened to the ring.
“Eva Bremer,” his ex identified herself. The sound of her maiden name, to which she had returned, always hurt. He took a deep breath before he spoke.
“Hi Eva, it’s me.”
As always, there was a brief pause.
“Hi Paul. How are you?”
He swallowed and tried to sound as normal as possible, so that his wife could tell he was sober. “Fair. It was cold last night, and I’m a bit worried about the winter, but everything else is okay. How are you?”
“Thanks, things are going well enough. I found a new job as secretary for an attorney. The work is boring, but I’m making a little money.”
He wasn’t sure if he heard a slight reproach in her voice. However, after being out in the street, after his utter descent, even that didn’t matter much to him. He would simply drown her disappointment in the next bottle of booze.
“I’m glad. The two of you can certainly use that money.” He paused a little before he continued.
“I’m sober. Haven’t had a drink all morning. Could I talk with Klara? I promise I’ll behave.”
His ex-wife hesitated as always. He could understand why, knew what he had done to her and his daughter. He was sorry, but it was too late; he couldn’t undo the past, couldn’t turn back the clock. Being able to have phone conversations with Klara was the best he could expect.
“Okay, I’ll get her. But remember our agreement: not one word about your condition! Growing up without a dad is bad enough for her.”
Her words hurt, but he said yes. He wouldn’t have told his daughter anyway that he was an alcoholic bum who couldn’t even take care of his family. Why should he? So she’d look down on him? He actually was afraid that his ex might tell the child. After Eva had kicked him out, ever since he’d been living on the street, he’d been afraid of that.
After a brief moment, he heard his little daughter’s small voice on the line.
“Hi Klara! How are you?”
“Pretty fine. But it’s been a long time since you called. Mommy said you were traveling again. Where are you just now?”
That was the story they told her. Her father was on a trip to a faraway country and couldn’t come home. He knew that this lie didn’t really make things any easier for his daughter. She missed him. But at least she didn’t know what he had turned into, and he could talk to her on the phone now and then. He tried to put as much joy into his voice as he could.
“You won’t believe what I’m telling you. I’m in a city where the sun shines all the time. It never rains here and never gets cold. Can you imagine that?”
“That sounds very nice. It’s turned very cold where we are. I think winter is coming again.”
He heard his daughter’s voice, looked out of the telephone booth, saw the gray street, the gray buildings, and the passers-by, who wore thick clothing against the cold. A city where the sun shines all the time? He’d like that. He felt thirsty again.
“Do you have Clown Cheeryouup with you?” his daughter asked.
“Sure I do, Klara. He’s skipping from one leg to the other in front of this telephone booth. It looks very funny.”
He had often told her about Clown Cheeryouup. She loved her dad’s stories about the clown and asked for a new one each time he called.
“Did he cheer someone up again?”
“You know that he always has to cheer everyone up, even if that’s not what he has in mind. Yesterday he ran into a very sad little girl.”
His daughter laughed in anticipation of the story.
“What was the matter with the girl? Please tell me.”
“Okay, I’ll tell you what happened yesterday. We were walking through the streets of the city where the sun always shines, when we saw a small girl on a park bench who looked very sad. Cheeryouup leaped toward her on his little legs and drew himself up to his full, one foot, one inch height in front of her. He looked firmly into her face and asked in his very deep voice why she looked so unhappy.”
Klara laughed. She always thought it was funny that such a little clown should have such a deep voice. Paul now played the clown, saying in his deepest voice, “‘The weather is so beautiful and the sun is nice and warm. Why are you so unhappy, little princess?’ The girl looked unhappily at Cheeryouup and told him that her best friend had moved to another city, and that she was so sad because she couldn’t play with her any longer. ‘But you have other friends, don’t you?’ Cheeryouup asked. ‘Of course I do, but she was simply my dearest friend,’ the girl answered. ‘I miss her a lot.'”
“And what did he do then? Did he make the girl happy again?” Klara asked.
“It was very funny. He tried all his tricks on the girl. First he grew his ears very large, so that they were dragging on the ground, and then he danced like mad, until he stumbled over his own ears and fell on his red nose.”
Klara laughed. She was probably imagining the clown with the large ears.
“But the girl still looked unhappy. So Cheeryouup first changed the color of his nose from red to green, and then to blue and yellow. At the same time he made very funny noises with his mouth and danced on his hands. But the girl still looked at him sadly. He got crazier and crazier, but nothing helped, so I started to worry that Cheeryouup might get sad himself. You know, that would be very dangerous for him.”
Klara had been laughing loudly again; but now she suddenly said with all the seriousness of her young years, “Clown Cheeryouup mustn’t be unhappy! You told me that he would vanish into thin air if he became sad and could never cheer anyone up again.”
“That’s right, Klara. That’s why I worried about him when I noticed that none of his tricks worked on the girl. But then I saw that Cheeryouup was turning angry, not sad. Can you imagine a clown throwing a tantrum? Now, that really looked funny: Cheeryouup stomped his feet and jumped up and down, so his pants slid off over and over. That made him even angrier and angrier, and he grumbled to himself. His head turned very red and little clouds of smoke came out of his ears, while his red pointed cap fell off. This really looked very funny. And, you know what?”
Klara was laughing again.
“While Cheeryouup got so worked up, the girl started laughing after all. I guess she’d never seen an angry clown.”
“That’s very funny. But I hope he got over his tantrum?”
“Well, once in a while his ears still give out a little smoke, but I think he’s fine again.”
“I’d like to get to know Cheeryouup. Can’t you come by sometime and bring him along?”
“But Klara, I’m so far away. And besides, what for? You’re happy. You don’t need the clown.”
He heard the soft voice of his ex in the background, and Klara said, somewhat disappointed, “Daddy, Mommy wants to talk to you again. Take care! I love you.”
“I love you, too, Klara.”
It was too brief. As always it had been simply too brief, but he couldn’t stop the clock, couldn’t make the moment last.
“Thank you, Paul! That was very good of you.”
His wife’s voice sounded sad when she continued, “Maybe you could make another effort to get help. Klara needs her dad.”
“I can’t, Eva. You know I tried my best, but I’m too weak.”
He swallowed hard, glanced at his shopping cart in front of the phone booth, and felt the liquor bottle in his pocket. He knew he had to have a drink now; the morning had exhausted all his strength.
“Thank you for letting me talk to Klara! I’ll call again soon.”
“Take good care of yourself, Paul! And let me know if there’s anything I can do for you after all!” Eva hung up.
Paul remained in the phone booth for a moment. Then he stepped out into the cold, grabbed his shopping cart, and trotted over to the near-by park. There he sat down on a bench, pulled the liquor bottle from his pocket, and started swigging in large gulps.
After emptying most of the bottle, he saw Cheeryouup poking his little head out of the trash in his shopping cart and looking at him with questioning eyes.
“Cheer me up, too, little clown,” Paul said, watching him climb from the shopping cart and striking a pose before him.
The clown shook his head, lifted his red nose, and looked at him before saying in his deep voice, “You heard your daughter laughing. If that doesn’t cheer you up, then I can’t help you either.”
Paul looked at the little clown for a long time, while he drank the last of the bottle. Then he nodded and smiled.
“Let’s have a new adventure, Cheeryouup, so that we’ll have a new tale to tell!”
He got up, and together they pushed his cart into the city where the sun never stopped shining.


Original © Christian Helm
Translation © Ingrid Lansford