WHO LIVES Elisabeth Borchers

WHO LIVES Elisabeth Borchers

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Translated from the German by Caroline Wilcox Reul


In this bilingual edition, Borchers, unafraid and comfortable in her skin, confronts the serious quandaries of existence. The book’s six sections highlight her penchant for stylistic experimentation, which ranges from sophisticated, subtle political commentary to inventive rhyme and playful personal narratives. Borchers’ forty-year tenure as an editor is evident in her authoritative voice, which, even as it boldly leads the reader into fraught territory, remains always affable and open.

"Elisabeth Borchers never soars. Earth is her home, and she is reluctant to leave it. In her poem ‘Refusal to Testify’ she writes, ‘Later, much later / I will bear witness to / what I don’t know.’ For now—in a collection called, simply, Who Lives—she is content to explore what she does know: the ‘reliable things,’ the moment ‘already over,’ the ‘house that holds / the warmth and cold,’ the ‘blinding poverty’ of memory. Her words accumulate like snow, deceptively innocent, as they transform the familiar into the new. ‘You know what I’m talking about,’ she says; thanks to these fine translations by Caroline Wilcox Reul, we do." 

—Gary Miranda


Elisabeth Borchers was born in 1926 and raised bilingually with French and German. She worked as an editor, first at Luchterhand, then at Suhrkamp from 1960 until her retirement in 1998. She is often cited as playing a critical role in the development of German literature during the second half of the 20th century. She is the author of eight books of poetry, numerous children’s books, radio plays and essays and has translated many books from French into German. She died in 2013 in Frankfurt.


Caroline Wilcox Reul lived in Germany for ten years, working as an English teacher and freelance lexicographer. She has a MA in computational linguistics and German language and literature from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich.

144 pages | 5.5 x 7.5 in.
ISBN-13: 978-1-935635-74-1 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 978-1-935635-75-8 (hardcover)

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