Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin / Herr Gröttrup Takes a Seat / Herr Gröttrup Sits Down
by Sharon Dodua Otoo

Awarded the Ingeborg Bachmann prize 2016

Translated into British English by Katy Derbyshire
Translated into American English by Patrick Ploschnitzki and Judith Menzl
With an interview by Idra Novey

Edited by Brittany Hazelwood. Designed by Alexander Fuchs.

Publication date: June 15, 2020. Paperback, 88 pp, 12,7 x 21 cm. English/German. ISBN 978-3-9819359-2-9. Distribution: Vice Versa. Photo by Alexander Romey.



Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin, the award-winning short story that rocked the German-speaking literary world, is now available to English readers. This limited-edition tripartite publication visually presents the original German text in paralleled symmetry with translations from the British and American English and original illustrations inspired by the absurdist world of Herr Gröttrup. Featuring an interview between the author and celebrated novelist Idra Novey, Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin is a stunning meditation on rules and rule-breaking.

Sharon Dodua Otoo’s short story Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin, her second only work published in German, is a subversive and surrealist fable set in the unlikeliest of places: the otherwise uneventful breakfast table of Herr and Frau Gröttrup. The arrival of an unexpected guest forces Herr Gröttrup to question the routines around which he has so obsessively built his world — and his unmooring reminds us that the very assumptions that structure our realities can be undone by the smallest of interruptions. Otoo, a Black British author and the first ever Black writer to win the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, conjures up a forgotten chapter of German history in her portrayal of Herr Gröttrup, who is based on the historical Nazi rocket-scientist Helmut Gröttrup. Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin is a whimsical, intimate rendering of Germanness and »otherness« — and an equally unsettling examination of our internalization of rules and the extraordinary lengths we’d go to protect them.

»Sharon is able to come at the topic of Germany’s Nazi history from a completely different perspective, almost humanizing a little-known historical villain before revealing a truth to a disarmed audience«
—Media Diversified

»The kind of work of literature that you have to go searching for because it hardly knows how sought after it is«
—Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»A twist that stretches the conventions of anthropomorphism to their limits«
—The Guardian

»A breakfast scene, as if staged by Loriot«
—Süddeutsche Zeitung

»A fanciful appeal for breaking up rigid systems of thought«
—Die Zeit

»Otoo turns an elderly couple’s breakfast table into the final battleground of their life«
—Neue Zürcher Zeitung

   Sharon Dodua Otoo
is a Black British mother, activist, and author (»Black« is deliberately written with a capital B). She is also the editor of the book series Witnessed, which appears in the Münster-based publishing collective edition assemblage. Sharon Dodua Otoo’s first novella, the things i am thinking while smiling politely, was published in 2012. The German translation, die dinge, die ich denke, während ich höflich lächle, appeared in 2013, also in edition assemblage. Her most recent novella, Synchronicity, was first published in German in 2014, then one year later in the English-language original. Sharon Dodua Otoo won the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize at the 2016 Festival of German Language Literature.

   Katy Derbyshire
was born and bred in London and has lived in Berlin for much of her adult life. She translates contemporary German writers, including Inka Parei, Olga Grjasnowa, Heike Geißler, and Christa Wolf. Her translation of Clemens Meyer’s Bricks and Mortar (Im Stein) was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize and won her the Straelen Translation Award. She is currently translating Meyer’s most recent short story collection.

   Patrick Ploschnitzki
graduated from the University of Cologne with a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and English Studies while working for the University of Rhode Island’s German Section and at Middlebury College’s German School. Patrick earned his Master’s degree in German Studies (Translation Emphasis) at the University of Arizona. He is now a Ph.D. candidate with a minor in Translation Studies in the Department’s Transcultural German Studies program. His research includes contemporary Dorfromane, translation in the foreign language classroom, and dubbing. He is part of the University Fellows Program, and his translation of excerpts from Jürgen Bauer’s Das Fenster zur Welt was recently published in Translation Review.

   Judith Menzl
was born and raised in Germany until the age of twelve when she moved to Tucson, Arizona. She received her Bachelors in Linguistics from the University of Arizona and started the MA program the following year. She graduated with an MA in German Studies (Translation Emphasis). Her publications include the translation of the children’s book The Princes and the Treasure and the collaborative translation project of Peter Waterhouse’s Klangtal. She was also a contributing translator for a collection of poems by Hans Brickmann. Judith has now shifted gears and is working in the field of arboriculture.

   Idra Novey
is the author of the novels Those Who Knew, an Indie Next Pick, and Ways to Disappear, winner of the Sami Rohr Prize, the Brooklyn Eagles Prize, and a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction. Her fiction and poetry have been translated into ten languages and she’s written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Paris Review. Her translations include four works from Spanish and Portuguese, most recently Clarice Lispector’s novel The Passion According to G.H. She teaches fiction at Princeton University.

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