Deutsches Haus at NYU presents a reading and conversation focusing on "The Radio Operator" (HaperVia, 2021) with the author Ulla Lenze and the book's translator Marshall Yarbrough. "The Radio Operator" is a gripping historical novel about a German immigrant who becomes embroiled in a Nazi spy ring operating in New York City in the early days of World War II, The conversation will reflect on the inspiration and research that went into the book and also on the translation into English.
About the book:
At the end of the 1930s, Europe is engulfed in war. Though America is far from the fighting, the streets of New York have become a battlefield. Anti-Semitic and racist groups spread hate, while German nationalists celebrate Hitler’s strength and power. Josef Klein, a German immigrant, remains immune to the troubles roiling his adopted city. The multicultural neighborhood of Harlem is his world, a lively place full of sidewalk tables where families enjoy their dinner and friends indulge in games of chess.
Josef’s great passion is the radio. His skill and technical abilities attract the attention of influential men who offer him a job as a shortwave operator. But when Josef begins to understand what they’re doing, it’s too late; he’s already a little cog in the big wheel—part of a Nazi espionage network working in Manhattan. Discovered by American authorities, Josef is detained at Ellis Island, and eventually deported to Germany.
Back in his homeland, fate leads him to his brother Carl's family, soap merchants in Neuss—where he witnesses the seductive power of the Nazis and the war’s terrible consequences—and finally to South America, where Josef hopes to start over again as José. Eventually, Josef realizes that no matter how far he runs or how hard he tries, there is one indelible truth he cannot escape: How long can you hide from your own past, before it catches up with you?
About the participants:
Ulla Lenze was born in Germany in 1973 and lives as a freelance writer in Berlin and Buckow. She has been awarded several literary prizes, most recently the Literature Prize of the Kulturkreis der deutschen Wirtschaft in 2016 and the Lower Rhine Literature Prize in 2020 for her complete works. Her first historical novel "The Radio Operator" focuses on the life of a German immigrant in the United States and his involvement in the Nazi spy network during World War II. The novel, which has been translated into twelve languages so far, was published in the U.S. by HarperVia in 2021. Ulla Lenze is currently Max Kade Visiting Professor at Dartmouth.
Marshall Yarbrough is a translator, writer, and musician. His translations from German include work by authors such as Ulla Lenze, Wolf Wondratschek, Flake, and Norman Ohler. He lives in New York City.
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"'The Radio Operator:' An Evening with Ulla Lenze and Marshall Yarbrough" is made possible with the support of the Max Kade Foundation, which is hosting Ulla Lenze as a Visiting Professor at Dartmouth College.