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Cultural Relations: Literature

Canadian literature tells the story of Canada, in all its richness and diversity. Canadian novelists, essayists, playwrights and poets such as Margaret Atwood, Joseph Boyden, Douglas Coupland, Nicolas Dickner, Barbara Gowdy, Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler, Madeleine Thien, Kim Thùy and Michael Ondaatje have given voice to the deepest thoughts and feelings of Canadians.

Find out about the Governor General's Literary Awards


Canadian literature in Germany

Bibliography Logo c. AH HolzamerThe success of Canadian authors in German translation started in 1979 with Margaret Atwood, who took Germany by storm and still is the most popular Canadian author in the country. Her Handmaid’s Tale has sold over a million copies in German translation. Margaret Atwood is not alone in this recognition, however.


The Bibliography of Canadian authors in German translation, begun in 1978 with only a few titles, has grown exponentially and now comprises about 1,600 fiction, poetry and non-fiction works.

Between 1993 and 2000, Livres Canada Books (formerly the Association for the Export of Canadian Books) reported an eight-fold increase of Canadian book sales to Germany. This success, unheard of before, would not have been possible without the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

On average, 40 Canadian titles are translated into German every year; about 20 per cent of them receive support through the Canada Council’s International Translation Grants Program; many authors also benefit from the Council’s travel grants for professional writers to attend the launch of the German translation of their book. Canadian authors give about five readings throughout Germany, and their German publishers often hire popular actors to read from the German translation. The visits are also complemented by media interviews.

Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Barbara Gowdy and Yann Martel all have close ties with their German publishers. Atwood and Ondaatje have been awarded Germany’s prestigious Nelly Sachs Prize (2009 and 1995, respectively), and Yann Martel won the German Book Prize in 2004. In March 2012, Ondaatje read at the Berlin Academy of the Arts to an enthusiastic audience of over 300. Nicolas Dickner was among the 30 Canadian authors who attended the International Munich Book festival in 2008; the German translations of his novels Nikolski and Tarmack were very favourably received. Other authors from Québec who have successfully launched their novels in Germany include Marie-Sissi Labrèche and Gaétan Soucy.

In addition to Canadian authors in German translation, Canadian literature is taught at 23 Canadian Studies Centres in Germany and Austria



The Embassy cooperates with German publishers who have translated or are translating Canadian authors into German on an individual basis to promote Canadian literature in Germany.  

Questions about the Canadian book trade should be addressed to the LivresCanadaBooks (LCB). Further programmes for the promotion of literature and publishing are provided by the Canada Council of the Arts.

Andrea Boegner, Cultural Attaché
Embassy of Canada, Public Affairs
Leipziger Platz 17
D - 10117 Berlin



Canada Council for the Arts
Conseil des Arts du Canada

Logo Canada CouncilThe Writing and Publishing Section of the Canada Council contributes to the advancement of Canadian literature, through its programs and in line with the directions, policies and procedures established by the Canada Council for the Arts. It supports professional literary artists and arts organizations involved in fostering and promoting Canadian literary arts.

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Information about literature in Germany is provided by the Goethe Institute.


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