- Death in Rome by Wolfgang Koeppen, translated by Michael Hofmann
Hamish Hamilton, 192 pp, £9.99, November 1992, ISBN 0 241 13238 X
This German novel has waited nearly forty years for its English translator. Michael Hofmann fell in love the moment the Good Fairy told him about it, and set out to liberate it from the thorn hedge of neglect. The Good Fairy, in this case, was a Berlin bookseller ‘who First recommended Koeppen’. Wolfgang Koeppen is 86. He wrote a couple of novels before the war, but his fame (now in abeyance, even in Germany where he was once classed with Böll and Grass), rests on the three he published in quick succession in the early Fifties. This is the third and he has not written much since. In his Introduction, Hofmann thanks the bookseller, Barbara Stiess, and also his publisher Daniel Halpern ‘for his unforgettably impulsive agreement to publish the book’. So the English version of Death in Rome is the result of three people’s enthusiasm.