Writing Competition 2015

DAAD / IMLR Translation Competition on Annett Gröschner’s novel ‘Walpurgistag’

We are very pleased that the response to the Translation Competition on Annett Gröschner’s novel Walpurgistag which we had jointly organised with the Institute for Modern Languages Research (IMLR) has been very strong, with 205 entries from the UK and further afield. The competition aimed to encourage a deeper engagement with the German language and culture through the complexities of the translation process, as well as to celebrate language work at school, undergraduate, and postgraduate level and beyond. Contestants were asked to translate a set passage of Gröschner’s novel; each entry category was assigned a different passage, each with its own linguistic and contextual challenges. We would like to thank all participants for taking on this challenge. The jury was very impressed with the high standard of submissions across all four categories: secondary schools (aged 12 and above), undergraduates (i.e. who is currently on an UG course) , postgraduates (i.e. anybody with a Bachelors degree or studying for a PG degree) and others, with each category translating a different passage of the novel.

About the author

Annett Gröschner is one of the most important literary voices not only in Berlin, but of Berlin and its social and cultural history. She has edited letters, diaries and radio features, she has curated exhibitions and written essays and travel reports – all contributing to archiving a multiplicity of stories and authentic voices that, together, make up something like the identity of the city of Berlin. But as a creative writer, she has done even more: she has built on the authentic material she gathered, and produced fiction (short stories, poems, but also two wonderful, rich and nuanced novels) which is devoted to keeping the cultural memory of the city alive and which encapsulates the feel and the materiality of everyday life in Berlin.

Everyday life in Berlin is also at the heart of Walpurgistag.  The title refers to the ‘Walpurgisnacht’, the night of 30 April, which is the date of an annual witches’ meeting according to German folklore. The novel is an intricately woven web of stories that intersect: many strands cross and twirl around one another and thus provide multiple visions of life in Berlin on this one day: 30 April 2010.


The competition is run in conjunction with the ENCOUNTERS series at the Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR), University of London, and the University of Nottingham. ‘Encounters’ bring together writers and translators in conversation; they allow insights into the translation process as joint text production that would otherwise not be accessible to the reader.

Prize-giving December 2015

Of the 205 entries, 39 had been submitted in the Others category, 54 in the Undergraduate, and 43 in the Postgraduate category, whilst the number of entries in the Schools category was particularly high at 69. Many thanks to all for rising to this challenge and proving that the German language is alive and enjoyed by many across generations!

All prize-winners were invited to an evening of readings/discussions with Annett Gröschner and her translator Katy Derbyshire, followed by the official prize-giving in London on 10th December 2015. Winners and Runners-up have received prizes ranging from invitations to attend translation workshops or panel discussions at the University of Cambridge to subscriptions of German magazines and book prizes.

Competition winners will also receive a special invitation to meet Annett Gröschner and Katy Derbyshire in the afternoon of 10 December to discuss the texts chosen for this competition. The Encounters event is followed by an awards reception where winning translations will be presented by members of the jury, competition organisers and sponsors.

The competition would not have been possible without the generous support of the German Embassy, the Goethe Institut London, the Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, the Cambridge German Network, the Greater London German Network, and the University of Nottingham. Special thanks also go to our panel of judges for their time and enthusiasm.

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