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False Friends
False Friends

Uljana Wolf

translated by Susan Bernofsky

Poetry | $12 $10
Out of Print"tongue-twisting aplomb"

False Friends is concerned with the poetics of translation, with the ever-shifting border made material in the crossings between languages. This DICHTionary (Dichtung = Poetry in German) is an alphabet of prose poems following the double-helix pattern of so-called false friends in the German and the English—words that look and/or sound similar in both languages, but differ in meaning. At any given moment, each of these words might be used with German in mind, or English, or both. Other times these "friends" do not appear explicitly in their poems but instead remain standing behind them with suitcases full of etymology and misread linguistic maps. In the encounters between these words, mistranslation or misunderstanding is perceived as a program to generate poetry, a space of constant transfers and a playful plea for the irritations of translation in a world more and more defined by a globalized language and culture.

Translated by Susan Bernofsky, with additional translations by Traver Pam Dick, Eugene Ostashevsky, Erín Moure, Ute Schwartz, and Uwe Weiß.

Excerpt ˇ


from False Friends:

consider the woodpecker's third eyelid sliding supportively across its pupil. with its help, you can strike home any point without eyes popping from sockets.

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About the Author

Uljana Wolf
The poet, translator and editor Uljana Wolf was born in East Berlin. Her poems have been published in journals and anthologies worldwide, such as Das Gedicht, manuskripte, kursywa, Poetry Ireland Review, Lyrik von Jetzt (Dumont, 2003), New European Poetry (Graywolf, 2008), Dichten No. 10: 16 New German Poets (Burning Deck, 2008), the Chicago Review, Harper’s Bazaar, Luces Intermitentes. Nueve poetas recientes de Alemania (Guadalajara, Mexico) and Telephone Journal. Wolf published two books of poetry, kochanie ich habe brot gekauft (kookbooks 2005) and falsche freunde (kookbooks 2009), as well as the essay "BOX OFFICE" about the prose poem (Lyrikkabinett München, 2009). For her work, Wolf has been awarded several prizes and grants, such as the Peter-Huchel-Preis and the Dresdner Lyrikpreis (both 2006), the RAI Medienpreis at Lyrikpreis Meran (2008) and a grant from the Deutsche Literaturfonds. She translates numerous poets into German, mostly from English, among them Matthea Harvey, Christian Hawkey, Erín Moure, and Cole Swensen, and was the co-editor of the 2009 Jahrbuch der Lyrik (Fischer Verlag). A selection of her work in Spanish, Fronteras del languaje, translated by Vladimir Garcia Morales, was  published by La Bella Varsovia/Cosmopoética (Córdoba 2011).  Author photo by Katja Zimmermann.

About the Translator

Susan Bernofsky has translated seventeen books, including six by Robert Walser as well as novels by Jenny Erpenbeck, Yoko Tawada, Hermann Hesse, and others. She received the 2006 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translation Prize as well as awards and fellowships from the NEH, NEA, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Lannan Foundation.  She is currently serving as Chair of the PEN Translation Committee and teaching in the MFA Program at the Columbia University School of the Arts.

Advance Praise

It reminds me of Shakespeare's 'Time must undo this knot, not I. It is too hard a knot for me to untie.' But Susan Bernofsky has tied it with tongue-twisting aplomb. It seems it HAD to be re-written in English and by a remarkable poet.—FORREST GANDER