German Women Writers – A Few More Suggestions


German Literature Month is upcoming and since we’d like to promote women writers I thought, I give you some more suggestions. Two years ago I wrote this post containing mostly classics. Below you find a list with newer or lesser-known authors and books who are all interesting. None of these have been reviewed in one of the past GLM. There would be so many more if only they were translated.

Mrs Sartoris

Elke Schmitter – Germany

Mrs Sartoris

An explosive first novel – Madame Bovary in modern Germany – about a wife and mother whose failed love affairs have driven her to the edge of sanity and to a startling attempt at vindication. After being jilted by a rich boyfriend, Margaret, eighteen and heartbroken, throws herself into a comfortable but stifling marriage to Ernst, a war veteran with a penchant for routine and order, who still lives with his mother in a small German village.

It’s not a bad life, considering Margaret’s psychological scars, but neither Ernst’s adoration nor the birth of a daughter can reawaken her frozen emotions. Until she slides into an affair with a married man with whom she plans to run away. Her plan is a fantasy that cannot possibly come true. Its repercussions nevertheless will explode with unimaginable force in these astonished lives.


Karen Duve – Germany


“It will get better when it stops raining,” said Leon. When Leon Ulbricht lands a contract to write a gangster’s memoirs and moves into his dream home in an East German village with his beautiful wife Martina, everything seems set for an idyllic existence. But the dream home turns out to be in the middle of a fetid swamp; his house and marriage are falling apart; he can’t write the book and has spent all of his advance. It rains without end and their attempts to repair the house, or at least dry it out, are hampered by the plague of slugs eating away at the foundations. And then the gangster, wondering why his memoirs are not yet completed, decides to get nasty.

The Pollen Room

Zoe Jenny – Switzerland

The Pollen Room

Carlin Romano “The Philadelphia Inquirer”A European “Catcher in the Rye” or “Less than Zero” — a “spokenovel” for its generation….Abounds in gleaming sentences, in burnished image after image…[Jenny] is a beautifully disciplined writer.

House of Childhood

Anna Mitgutsch – Austria

House of Childhood

Max Berman, a successful but rootless New York restoration architect, socialite, and ladies’ man, remembers his childhood home in the small Austrian town of “H,” mostly through his mother‚’s cherished photographs and vivid stories. When she dies, still longing for the house she fled with her husband and young children in 1928, Max temporarily abandons his playboy lifestyle and travels to H, determined to reclaim the confiscated house.

In H, Max encounters Nadja, a young woman convinced that her late mother was Jewish and that the local synagogue will provide the sense of community she lacks. Recognizing that she is too talented for her provincial neighbors, he arranges for her to attend college in the U.S., where she becomes the most significant of his many lovers. He also befriends Arthur Spitzer, a Holocaust survivor and the leader of H’s dwindling Jewish community, who helps him regain legal control of his mother’s house. When, years later, the last of his tenants finally moves out, Max returns to investigate his family’s ties in H for a fateful year that challenges his restlessness and seems to offer the chance for real belonging.

Acclaimed Austrian writer Anna Mitgutsch’s novel is a powerful examination of the meaning of home—in a place, a community, a relationship—and the difficulty of finding one in our tumultuous world.


Viola Roggenkamp – Germany

The Spectale Salesman’s Family

Paul Schiefer is a travelling spectacles salesman. Every Monday morning he leaves Hamburg on a week-long sales trip. His wife, his mother-in-law and his two teenage daughters Fania and Vera see him off with abundant hugs and kisses, and they welcome him back with equal exuberance on Friday evening – just in time for Sabbath eve. While her husband is away, Alma Schiefer defends the wellbeing of her family with an explosive mixture of ferocious love and extreme determination. Thirteen-year-old Fania is torn between the comfort of home and the fearful thrills of the unknown outside world, a sixties world that contains student protest, beehive hairdos, Israel and the Six Day War, politics, religion, revolution and . . . the promise of love. Sensual, funny and acerbic, The Spectacle Salesman’s Family is a brilliant, vivid portrait of Jewish life in post-Holocaust Germany that continues the Jewish tradition of memorialising, recounting the details in order to hold onto the past and its lessons.


Trobadora Beatrice

Irmtraud Morgner – Germany

The Lives and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice Chronicled by Her Minstrel Laura

Set in the German Democratic Republic of the early 1970s, The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice-a landmark novel now translated into English for the first time-is a highly entertaining adventure story as well as a feminist critique of GDR socialism, science, history, and aesthetic theory. In May 1968, after an eight-hundred-year sleep, Beatrice awakens in her Provence château. Looking for work, she makes her way to Paris in the aftermath of the student uprisings, then to the GDR (recommended to her as the “promised land for women”), where she meets Laura Salman, socialist trolley driver, writer, and single mother, who becomes her minstrel and alter ego. Their exploits-Beatrice on a quest to find the unicorn, Laura on maternity leave in Berlin-often require black-magic interventions by the Beautiful Melusine, who is half dragon and half woman. Creating a montage of genres and text types, including documentary material, poems, fairy tales, interviews, letters, newspaper reports, theoretical texts, excerpts from earlier books of her own, pieces by other writers, and parodies of typical GDR genres, Irmtraud Morgner attempts to write women into history and retell our great myths from a feminist perspective. Irmtraud Morgner (1933-90) was one of the most innovative and witty feminist writers to emerge from the GDR. Jeanette Clausen is an associate professor of German at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne. She is a coeditor of German Feminism: Readings in Politics and Literature and is a past editor of Women in German Yearbook.

Pavel's Letters

Monika Maron – Germany

Pavel’s Letters

Teasing her family’s past out of the fog of oblivion and lies, one of Germany’s greatest writers asks about the secrets families keep, about the fortitude of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and about what becomes of the individual mind when the powers that be turn against it.

Born in a working-class suburb of wartime Berlin, Monika Maron grew up a daughter of the East German nomenklatura, despairing of the system her mother, Hella, helped create. Haunted by the ghosts of her Baptist grandparents, she questions her mother, whose selective memory throws up obstacles to Maron’s understanding of her grandparents’ horrifying denouement in Polish exile.

Maron reconstructs their lives from fragments of memory and a forgotten box of letters. In telling her family’s powerful and heroic story, she has written a memoir that has the force of a great novel and also stands both as an elaborate metaphor for the shame of the twentieth century and a life-affirming monument to her ancestors.

Do you have a favourite author writing in German?

43 thoughts on “German Women Writers – A Few More Suggestions

  1. You know what this is, Caroline? This is bad, bad, bad for my ‘TBR’ list! I thought I had ordered my final books for GLM yesterday. And now I have a totally new list with all new-to-me authors! Well, life cannot get better 🙂 I am not saying ‘No’ to buying some more awesome books 🙂

    Karen Duve’s ‘Rain’ is the most appealing to me. I also liked the descriptions of ‘The Spectacle Salesman’s Family’ by Viola Roggenkamp (makes me think of ‘Little Women’ and the movie ‘Since You Went Away’) and ‘Pavel’s Letters’ by Monika Maron.

    Thanks for this wonderful post and these fascinating recommendations. I can’t wait to get some of them.

    • I know, it’s bad but I couldn’t refrain myself to draw the attention to some excellent but lesser known writes.
      Karen Duve and Monika maron are excellent. I haven’t read these two on the list but others and might very well read Rain. Roggenkamp’s book is endearing. The tone is wonderful. I need to read it again.

      • Thanks a lot for this post and for the wonderful recommendations, Caroline. Though my ‘TBR’ list is going to topple now, I am quite excited to discover more new German women authors. I am sure most GLM participants will agree with me. I ordered Karen Duve’s ‘Rain’ yesterday 🙂 Now after reading your comment, I am thinking that I should get Roggenkamp’s book too. I am also getting Pascal Mercier’s ‘Perlmann’s Silence’. Have you read this or any other book by Mercier? I read his ‘Night Train to Lisbon’ and liked it very much. So I am looking forward to reading this. This year’s GLM is going to be amazing, I think 🙂 I am starting to take the books I want to read and put them together in a pile. I am also waiting for the new books to arrive. I have to write the first ‘reading plan’ post soon. Can’t wait for the first of November!

        • My pleasure Vishy. I bought Mercier’s book last year after you recommended it a few times but never got around to reading it. My piles are toppling as well.
          I’ve got a few other booky by Duve and shirt stories but I’m tempted by so mayn books. I should start now.
          I hope you’ll like them.

          • I just read Zoë Jenny’s ‘The Pollen Room’, Caroline. It is such a beautiful book. It is early days yet, but I think it is going to be one of my favourites of this year. Thanks a lot for writing about her book. Now, I want to explore some of the other authors you have mentioned here.

            • I’m glad you liked it. She wrote really well back then. The second book is said to be good too ( I really need to read it) but then, unfortunately, she wrote some that weren’t exactly great.

  2. I’m biased, because Zoe Jenny was one of the judge’s on the prize that led to On the Holloway Road being published, but The Pollen Room is an excellent book. People should be aware that her latest, The Sky is Changing, was written in English, not in German, so I guess wouldn’t count for German Literature Month.

    I enjoyed Birgit Vanderbeke’s The Mussel Feast, which came out earlier this year in English translation. I seem to remember you mentioned it in another post, but thought I’d throw it in here just in case.

    • She has new one out. A short story collection written in German again.
      I’ve read afew of her novels but after The Pollen Room, I’m afrad the writing changed and it was not as great anymore. I think she’s back again with her short stories though.
      I love Vanderbeke but I left her out as she received some attention. But I’m glafd you mention her again. She’s well worth reading.

  3. This reminds me I need to get busy and I need to get a new library card to see if I can track down some female writers. unfortunately I don’t have any in my personal collection. That’s awful and I need to correct that.

  4. Caroline!
    I’m so thrilled you listed Mrs. Sartoris. I read it the year it was first published in the U.S. and was so immensely impressed by Schmitter’s craft and talent, and this, her debut novel! (?) I have frequently recommended it to beginning novelists because of the tight scene development, exquisite pacing, and astute characterizations. Plot rises as an incredible crescendo! What a novel!!

    • Thansk for that comment, Judith. I think it’s the only one that has been translated but she’s written quite a lot.
      I hope someone picks it. I’m tempted to write a review myself, just to make people aware.

  5. Pingback: Sunday Caught My Interest | Reflections from the Hinterland

  6. Interesting list, I’d read about Zoë Jenny on the new-books-in-german site, which is where I find most of my German reads! I was about the buy The Pollen Room and after your recommendation, I wish I had. I selected a book of short stories by Judith Hermann instead and two mysteries by Ursula Poznanski. Loved the theme for this year’s GLM, I hadn’t realized the only German female author I’d ever read was Cornelia Funke and I can’t wait to change that. Now I’m going to see if I can find The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice; it’s too fascinating to miss.

    • Judith Hermann is one of my absolute favourite German writers, I hope you will like her. I haven’t read Ursula Poznanski yet. I’m gald you like the theme. I find it sad that people always think German luterature is just a bunch of giys who write about WWII. Sure, WWII is important but the ladies write about it as well and there is so much more.

  7. Interesting list.
    Ironically, the first one is a German Madame Bovary and the second one has a character named Leon.
    Since I’m in Madame Bovary right now, I’m tempted to read the first one. (The problem is WHEN?) Et miracle! il est disponible en français.

    • I will read Schmitters who is one on this list I haven’t read yet. You can the decide if you are still tempted. And it seems Vishy will read her as well. The book was a huge success, so I’m not surprised it has been translated into French as well.

    • Theese are all well worth exploring and haven’t recived a lot of attention in Englishpeaking countries – but at least they were translated. I hope you’ll find few great books.

  8. Pingback: German Literature Month – November 2013 – Reading Plan | Vishy's Blog

  9. Pingback: German Literature Month – Book Review – Rain by Karen Duve | Vishy's Blog

  10. Pingback: German Literature Month – Book Review – Mrs.Sartoris by Elke Schmitter | Vishy's Blog

  11. Pingback: Book Review – The Pollen Room by Zoë Jenny | Vishy's Blog

Thanks for commenting, I love to hear your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.