My-father-was-a-man-on-land
2020 Longlist

My Father Was a Man on Land and a Whale in the Water

Translated from the German by Jen Calleja
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ABOUT
THE BOOK

A young woman goes on a perilous journey in search of her absent father. What ensues is a Freudian adult fairy tale.

This Swiss novella opens as a child bursts into the home of the narrator, Loribeth and attacks her with an iron. A fight breaks out and within pages, the story has spiralled into a hallucinatory, savage world in which Loribeth throws the iron onto the child from an upstairs window, stuffs the damaged body inside a suitcase and takes off on a journey to find her estranged father, encountering a host of bizarre characters along the way.

 

 

ABOUT
THE AUTHOR Michelle
Steinbeck

Michelle Steinbeck is a Swiss author, curator and editor. Her first novel, My Father was a Man on Land and a Whale in the Water was published in 2016 (Lenos) and nominated for the Swiss and German Book Prizes.

Michelle Steinbeck is a Swiss author, curator and editor. Her first novel, My Father was a Man on Land and a Whale in the Water was published in 2016 (Lenos) and nominated for the Swiss and German Book Prizes.

ABOUT
THE TRANSLATOR Jen
Calleja

Jen Calleja is a writer and literary translator based in London. Her fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry have appeared in The London Magazine, Ambit, Another Gaze, 3:AM, Somesuch Stories, Hotel, and in the anthologies On Relationships (3 of Cups, 2020) and Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry (Ignota, 2018). Her reviews and articles have been published by the TLS, History Today, Modern Poetry in Translation and the New Statesman, and she has had long-running columns on literature in translation in The Quietus and the Brixton Review of Books. She has translated over a dozen works of German-language literature, specialising in contemporary literary fiction and literary non-fiction. She was the inaugural Translator in Residence at the British Library, and her translations have featured in The New Yorker, Granta, The White Review, Literary Hub and elsewhere. She was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019 for her translation of  The Pine Islands (Serpent’s Tail), and for the Schlegel-Tieck Prize 2018 for Kerstin Hensel’s Dance by the Canal (Peirene Press).

 

Jen Calleja is a writer and literary translator based in London. Her fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry have appeared in The London Magazine, Ambit, Another Gaze, 3:AM, Somesuch Stories, Hotel, and in the anthologies On Relationships (3 of Cups, 2020) and Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry (Ignota, 2018). Her reviews and articles have been published by the TLS, History Today, Modern Poetry in Translation and the New Statesman, and she has had long-running columns on literature in translation in The Quietus and the Brixton Review of Books. She has translated over a dozen works of German-language literature, specialising in contemporary literary fiction and literary non-fiction. She was the inaugural Translator in Residence at the British Library, and her translations have featured in The New Yorker, Granta, The White Review, Literary Hub and elsewhere. She was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019 for her translation of  The Pine Islands (Serpent’s Tail), and for the Schlegel-Tieck Prize 2018 for Kerstin Hensel’s Dance by the Canal (Peirene Press).

 

NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS

Loribeth is a girl who needs to return a suitcase with a dead child inside to her father, who abandoned her a long time ago. This way, she ought to free herself from him and her own anxieties. This coming-of-age story is set in a world which seems to exist between dream and reality.  Loribeth’s uncertainty of growing up is apparent when her world turns absurd and nightmarish during encounters with motives of marriage and pregnancy. In a surreal, phantastical language that borrows from fairy-tales or the bible.  Michelle Steinback created a timeless story that, nevertheless, reflects our contemporary zeitgeist. Her language is rich in imagination and references that allows for diverse interpretation and it doesn’t slow its pace to take a breath.  Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin, Germany

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Country
Switzerland
Original Language
German
Publisher
Darf Publishers
Translator
Jen Calleja
Translation
Translated from the German by Jen Calleja

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