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Page turners! Rixdorf Editions’ neglected German classics

INSIDER TIP: The one-man Neukölln-based indie publishing house specialises in translating turn-of the-century German authors. With seven titles to date, including the groundbreaking "Berlin's Third Sex", these classics are eye-openers.

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Photo courtesy of Rixdorf Editions. Turn-of-the-century German classics translated into English.

Anyone with a base-level awareness of queer history will be familiar with the name of Magnus Hirschfeld, his Berlin Institute of Sexual Research and his groundbreaking work on transsexuality. But did you know that his 1904 Berlin’s Third Sex was only translated into English in 2017 – when Australian translator and publisher James J. Conway took it upon himself to make it available to English speakers and started his publishing house Rixdorf Editions. Named after Neukölln’s old bastion of debauchery – it was actually the district’s name until 1912 when bad rep prompted a renaming – the one-man operation focuses on translating into English a selection of unjustly neglected German classics from 1890 to 1918. The seven-volume portfolio suggests Conway’s taste for progressive tomes that still hold a staggering relevance to today’s readers. Take, for example, Countess Franziska zu Reventlow, who escaped to the city for a crack at a bohemian and artistic life (does it ring a bell, Berliners?). Her 1917 The Guesthouse at the Sign of the Teetering Globe is a collection of seven stories filled with fantastically strange characters in timelessly surreal settings. Or, for anyone wishing they had a country home to run away to, there is The beauty of the Metropolis, an essay on finding the beauty in your own Berlin backyard, written in 1908 by August Endell, the designer of the first of Hackesche Höfe’s courtyards. As for the indie Press’ latest volume Hermann Bahr’s Antisemitism it’s a fascinating historical curio. Originally published in 1894, it follows the author’s candid exploration of anti-Jewish feelings as he sets himself to interview his most famous contemporaries on the topic (from August Bebel to Henrik Ibsen). The book’s parallels with the present day – particularly early forms of populist politics and division as an electoral strategy – are unsettling and come as a sad reminder of how banal and deep-rooted our prejudices are: nihil novi, nothing new (or better) under the sun, no matter how far we think we might have progressed! For your own ticket to turn-of-the-century German classics, pick up one of Rixdorf Editions’ books from Curious Fox (Flughafenstr. 22) or order from their website. Enter our Newsletter giveaway for a chance to win one of three full sets of the catalogue.