This is the scene that greeted me upon entrance to a typical German bookstore. Historical novels everywhere. Some had separate sections labeled "Historiche Romane" (and when's the last time you saw that in an English-language store?) while others had piles and piles of them front and center. This photo comes from a mall store in Nürnberg's old city.
I had always heard that historical fiction was alive and well in Germany, and I now have firsthand proof of it. My two years of college German from 20 years ago were nowhere near sufficient for me to read any of them cover to cover, but I got the gist of the setting and characters from the titles and back cover blurbs.
There was a good selection of novels translated from English and other European languages. Can you spot Judith Merkle Riley's The Water-Devil, Jane Harris's The Observations, and C.J. Sansom's Revelation in the pile, not to mention several by Bernard Cornwell? The majority were, of course, written in German. Next to none will ever be translated into English, and they cover many subjects and settings that simply aren't covered in English-language fiction. There is no market here, apparently, which is very frustrating. So if you want to read a novel set in medieval Würzburg or 17th-century Bavaria, you'd better know how to read German or you're out of luck. And believe me, I'm tempted.
You'll gather that the headless woman trend is doing just as well there as it is here, and most of the novels do seem to have female protagonists; however, in my admittedly limited sampling, the emphasis on royalty isn't nearly as strong.
I know this blog has some German-speaking readers, and I'd love to hear their opinions! I can think of several historical novels written in English that appeared in German long before they were published in the US or UK (or elsewhere)... such as the Riley novel above and Donna Gillespie's Lady of the Light, sequel to The Light Bearer.
So, book shopping wasn't a major component of this trip, unlike my last visit to the UK (when I brought home a suitcase full). But I did do a lot of browsing.
What was I saying about some English-language content appearing first in German translation? Pope Joan, the film based on Donna Woolfolk Cross's bestselling novel of the same title, premiered October 22nd in Germany. You couldn't walk down the streets of of any major city without running into posters. The one at left comes from the Nürnberg Hauptbahnhof (main train station). The novel Die Päpstin was prominently displayed in every bookshop window we saw -- and in multiple sizes and covers.
I knew that the movie had been filmed in English, but the film that was being shown appeared to be in German, so we asked the desk clerk at our Nürnberg hotel and he confirmed it. After some googling around, I discovered that rather than subtitle Hollywood films for German-speaking audiences, the producers dub them into German using voice actors. There's a large foreign film cinema in Nürnberg called the Roxy, and the clerk advised checking there, but they weren't showing it in English -- because the English-language version, the original, hadn't been released yet (edited to say: or so I'd thought -- see comments for an update from a German reader). We could have gone to see the German version but decided to wait until it's available in the States. I hope it will be soon.