Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky
Novelists are only just beginning to analyse the refugee crisis and Go, Went, Gone is, in my view, one of the most impressive novels on the subject to date. By dramatising the growing relationship between a retired professor from the former East Germany and a group of refugees in Berlin, Erpenbeck gives voice to the marginalised, the uprooted and the displaced. Underpinned by the idea that is upon our treatment of refugees, their ability to survive and thrive in contemporary Europe, that we will be able to judge whether the fascism of the early twentieth century has been truly defeated, Go, Went, Gone is an empathetic, provocative and absolutely essential read.
River by Esther Kinsky, translated by Iain Galbraith
Like the River Lea that courses through it, Esther Kinsky's novel meanders gently, allowing both fragments of memory and the detritus of human experience to float to the surface. Incomers to London often provide the most illuminating accounts of the city and Kinsky is no different. Her London, primarily a city of migrants and outsiders, is lovingly rendered and will be recognisable to many readers.
Insane by Rainald Goetz, translated by Adrian Nathan West
The 1983 publication of Insane sent shockwaves through the German literary scene, not least of all when the author sliced his forehead open during a televised reading. Theatrics aside, Goetz is the real deal.
An unlikely fusion of punk and psychiatry, Insane tears apart conventions and takes sledgehammer to complacency. It's provocative, overwhelming, disturbing and yet shot through with empathy. If innovative fiction is your thing, Goetz is the writer for you.
Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin, translated by Michael Hofmann
Now available in a new translation from Michael Hofmann, Berlin Alexanderplatz is one of the most lauded, and controversial, works of German fiction. A sprawling collage, drawn from the slang of the Berlin streets, from street advertising and cabaret songs, Berlin Alexanderplatz is the ultimate Berlin novel and, in my opinion, the most successful attempt to capture a city in prose.