Aston Writer in Residence: Klaus Böldl

We were delighted to welcome German novelist Klaus Böldl as DAAD writer in residence. His time at Aston presented the author with his first opportunity to meet an English speaking audience and to interact with British students.

To mark the author’s stay, Dr Claudia Gremler and Dr Uwe Schütte organised the first academic conference on Böldl’s works. Having the author present and available to comment on the researchers’ interpretations of his writings turned the event into a very special occasion.

Böldl is an acclaimed author, particularly well known for his first novel Studie in Kristallbildung (“Study in Crystal Formation”) published in 1997. He is highly esteemed by critics and has won several literary prizes. Most of his books are set in Scandinavia and Böldl excels in describing remote regions allowing the reader to vividly picture unfamiliar landscapes.

This relationship between space and landscape formed one of the topics of the conference. In addition, the different aspects of identity in Böldl’s novels were examined, the application of ethnographic concepts was discussed and the portrayal of Limits and Extremes in Böldl’s books was analysed. There was a strong focus on Böldl’s most recent book, Der nächtliche Lehrer (“The Nocturnal Teacher”) from 2010.

The conference's keynote speaker

Aston was particularly proud to welcome our keynote speaker, Prof Heinrich Detering, President of the German Academy for Language and Literature. His lecture focussed on the tension between narration and contemplation in Böldl’s work and led to a lively discussion.

At present, Böldl’s books are only available in German. Their lucid yet highly associate style poses a challenge to translators. At Aston we chose to accept this challenge and set up a  Böldl project for our Translation Studies students. As part of their course of study, final year students translated passages from Der nächtliche Lehrer. They were presented in a bilingual reading at the end of the conference. Our colleague Jean Darvill, who supervised the students and helped them combine their efforts into a single translation, joined Böldl in this public event which also attracted staff and students from other universities.

Jean Darvill and Klaus Böldl present the first English translation of "Der nächtliche Lehrer"

The remainder of Böldl’s stay at Aston was filled with further student projects, including a Schreibwerkstatt and a workshop exploring Germany’s literary scene.

Klaus Böldl’s visit was only the most recent in a long line of similar projects – made possible by the support we received from the German Academic Exchange Service. We are hoping to host another author next year – so watch this space!