Dark Satellites

Clemens Meyer

Translated by Katy Derbyshire

French paperback with flaps, 224 pages
Published 20 January 2020

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International Booker-longlisted author Clemens Meyer returns with Dark Satellites, a striking collection of stories about marginal characters in contemporary Germany. A train driver’s life is upended when he hits a laughing man on the tracks on his night shift; a lonely train cleaner makes friends with a hairdresser in the train station bar; and a young man, unable to return to his home after a break-in, wanders the city in a state of increasing unrest. From the home to places of work, Meyer transforms the territories of our everyday lives into sites of rupture and connection. Unsentimental and yet deeply moving, Dark Satellites is a collection of stories from our time, as dark as the world, as beautiful as the brightest of hopes.

Read Clemens Meyer’s short story ‘Late Arrival’ on Granta

Spectator Books of the Year 2020

‘Figures from society’s margins are at the centre of the stories…. Dark Satellites throws a perceptive light on circumscribed lives on the edges of Europe.’
— David Mills, The Sunday Times

‘Clemens Meyer’s great art of describing people takes the form of the Russian doll principle: a story within a story within a story. From German jihad to a Prussian refugee drama, so much is so artfully interwoven that his work breaks the mould of the closed narrative. Images of history extending into the present are what make this collection a literary sensation.’
— Katharina Teutsch, Die Zeit

Dark Satellites proves once again that he is one of the strongest German writers. His short stories possess depth and truth, linking East German history with the present and painting dense and perceptive portraits of what we call “common people” – without a trace of mawkishness or kitsch.’ 
— Heinrich Oemsen, Hamburger Abendblatt

‘[Meyer’s] stripped-back prose is suffused with meaning.’
— The Arts Desk

‘Meyer’s writing is brittle, laconic, clear, intense – and once again on top form. Short stories are clearly his forte. He finds memorable images for his themes: a dance without music in an unused Russian canteen; a midnight haircut; a man who slides into another identity after a break-in to his home and leaves his briefcase, the last requisite of his old life, in an abandoned shop. Meyer’s stories are quiet, tragic and once again populated by ordinary people, for whom he has always harboured sympathies.’
— Steffen Roye, Am Erker

Meyer’s snapshots of urban life – a burger bar, a fairground wheel, a neglected train station – are so vivid they make you see your own surroundings in the light of those faraway buildings.’
— Anna Aslanyan, Spectator

At their most effective, these stories conjure a sense of historical displacement and complex German identity…. Our remaining memory of Meyer’s stories is perhaps their most powerful aspect. Though they sprawl and flicker between past and present, they can be encapsulated in vignette-like images: two women sipping Marias and leaning closely together in a station bar, a missing page in a photo-album after a protagonist’s apartment is raided – making him question whether memories can be stolen – and a laughing man stood on railway tracks. Meyer’s ventures into the recesses of society, empty rooms, unfrequented towns, is where his talent lies.’
Miriam Balanescu, Cardiff Review

Praise for Bricks and Mortar

‘Meyer’s multifaceted prose, studded with allusions to both high and popular culture, and superbly translated by Katy Derbyshire, is musical and often lyrical, elevating lowbrow punning and porn-speak into literary devices … [Bricks and Mortar] is admirably ambitious and in many places brilliant – a book that not only adapts an arsenal of modernist techniques for the twenty-first century but, more importantly, reveals their enduring poetic potential.’
— Anna Katharina Schaffner, Times Literary Supplement

‘[Bricks and Mortar is a] stylistic tour de force about the sex trade in Germany from just before the demise of the old GDR to the present, as told through a chorus of voices and lucidly mangled musings. The result is a gripping narrative best described as organic.’
— Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

‘A journey to the end of the night for 20/21st century Germany. Meyer reworks Döblin and Céline into a modern epic prose film with endless tracking shots of the gash of urban life, bought flesh and the financial transaction (the business of sex); memory as unspooling corrupted tape; journeys as migrations, as random as history and its splittings. A shimmering cast threatens to fly from the page, leaving only a revenant’s dream – sky, weather, lights-on-nobody-home, buried bodies, night rain. What new prose should be and rarely is; Meyer rewrites the rules to produce a great hallucinatory channel-surfer of a novel.’
— Chris Petit, author of Robinson

‘This is a wonderfully insightful, frank, exciting and heart-breaking read. Bricks and Mortar is like diving into a Force 10 gale of reality, full of strange voices, terrible events and a vision of neoliberal capitalism that is chillingly accurate.’
— A. L. Kennedy, author of Serious Sweet

‘The point of Im Stein [Bricks and Mortar] is that nothing’s “in stone”: Clemens Meyer’s novel reads like a shifty, corrupted collocation of .docs, lifted off the laptop of a master genre-ist and self-reviser. It’s required reading for fans of the Great Wolfgangs (Hilbig and Koeppen), and anyone interested in casual gunplay, drug use, or sex.’
— Joshua Cohen, author of Book of Numbers

Clemens Meyer was born in 1977 in Halle and lives in Leipzig. Bricks and Mortar, his first novel to be published in English by Fitzcarraldo Editions, was shortlisted for the German Book Prize, awarded the Bremer Literaturpreis 2014, longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, and shortlisted for the 2019 Best Translated Book Awards. His collection of stories, Dark Satellites, appeared with Fitzcarraldo Editions in Katy Derbyshire’s translation in 2020. While We Were Dreaming, Meyer’s debut novel, was originally published in Germany in 2007.

Katy Derbyshire, originally from London, has lived in Berlin for over twenty years. She translates contemporary German writers including Inka Parei, Heike Geissler, Olga Grjasnowa, Annett Gröschner and Christa Wolf. Her translation of Clemens Meyer’s Bricks and Mortar was the winner of the 2018 Straelener Übersetzerpreis (Straelen Prize for Translation). She occasionally teaches translation and also co-hosts a monthly translation lab and the bi-monthly Dead Ladies Show.