Jake Schneider is the editor-in-chief of SAND, Berlin’s English literary journal. His translation of Ron Winkler’s poetry collection Fragmentierte Gewässer (Fragmented Waters) was released by Shearsman Books last October. He works as a freelance translator from German to English.
Interview by Chris Fenwick
SAND is an English-language journal based in a German city. How do you think it differs from journals in English-speaking countries?
SAND itself is a Berliner by birth, even if virtually everyone who’s worked on it over the past eight years is a Berliner by choice, born elsewhere and likely to move on eventually. This a city of fleeting convergences, eager arrivals and sudden departures, and all that history has left many layers of unique creative residue, which is why we aren’t just a direct transplant from some other place where English is the official language.
In cosmopolitan Berlin, English now represents a kind of horizontal communication, often between people who grew up speaking a third or fourth language. English is the language people arriving here speak. That makes it a symbol of inclusion, while German is a daunting gate that fresh Berliners who are serious about settling down can only pass with years of study and practice.
So yes, the “global” status of English comes at the heels of the British Empire and (fading) American hegemony. But that background is irrelevant to international Berliners trying to meet halfway for a conversation. Compared to the scenes in languages like French, Russian and Hebrew that are by nature less accessible to people from other countries, the English scene represents a semi-neutral internationalism.