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legionnaires' disease-free since 1990

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Wed 23
Aug
2006

Inscrutable Germans

Company German edition of CompanyIn the comments of my last blog, member Ralf observed that there’s a German edition of Company coming out, and they’ve posted the cover online. I’m glad I have people like Ralf to tell me these things. He’s more up-to-date with what’s happening in my career than I am. From now on I’ll get him to write my blogs.

The German cover is very interesting, because I have absolutely no idea what it means. Now, I’m used to foreign publishers making inexplicable changes that I can only hope make more sense in their native language and culture. Especially if it’s the Germans, who are yet to publish a book of mine with anything even vaguely resembling the original title. (Syrup became “Fukk” and Jennifer Government is “Logoland”.) Because “chefsache” does not, as you might assume, mean “company.” It means “top priority case.”

My guess is that it must be common German management-speak, like “action items” or “Let’s take this offline” or “We’ve outsourced your job to India.” But the cover is more perplexing. I honestly can’t figure it out. And I’m usually good at this kind of thing. Once in high school I sat for an IQ test where they gave me sets of cards with pictures on them, and I was asked to arrange them to make logical stories. I scored lower on that test than anyone. My problem was that I kept seeing logical stories that weren’t there: I would arrange my cards in a sequence that made perfect sense to me—that spun tales of pathos and drama, of tragedy and triumph—and look proudly at the teacher only to see her eyes flick down to the answer sheet, and return, sympathetically, to meet mine. After that, they wouldn’t let me near sharp objects.

But this one is a mystery to me. Is that guy exploding? Why? And why is he wearing sunglasses? Help me out here: what do you think this cover means?

Comments

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Jamie (#111)

Location: Auckland
Quote: "Anyone still spelling "internet" with a capital "I" is probably struggling with the complexities of their new-fangled electric typewriter."
Posted: 2899 days ago

What do I think this cover means? You can't trick me with your book-cover Rorschach test! If I tell you what I think it means, the men in the white coats will swoop in and fit me for my padded jacket.

(OK, I admit that I had to look up how to spell Rorschach...)

Monkeywright (#1732)

Location: Los Angeles, Californi-YARGH!
Quote: ""China is Here?" I don't even know what the hell that means! - PS - visit scenic www.monkeywright.com"
Posted: 2899 days ago

The cover image is small, but it appears that the upper left corner is the bgeginning of an equation.
Heyne <
This is German for "Heiney is less than..."
Then we add the happy white face, helpfully labeled "Max Barry". The rest has something to do with Max contracting Red Tide Poisoning and exploding. Or perhaps the explosion refers back to the Heiney. Perhaps the answer lies in the fine print in the lower right corner.
This is the most juvenile post I've ever written, and I've written quite a few in my day.

Elle (#2618)

Location: New York
Posted: 2899 days ago

Hi there, long time reader, first time contributer, but I can't help myself. I have to weigh in to the German translation conversation.

From the Random House blurb I'd say they're trying to paint Mr. Jones as some kind of Special Agent type figure. Roughly, 'The man who takes it on himself to ask the questions no man is allowed to ask'... hence the dark glasses. And the dramatic demise... in a Bond like explosion.

Okay, I said it was rough.

Mincetro (#584)

Quote: "This isn't skiing"
Posted: 2899 days ago

Sure, Germany's getting it, But when will Australia be getting it? I'm tired of waiting!

Michael Ricksand (#2212)

Location: Terra
Quote: "You do not have a right to be stupid."
Posted: 2899 days ago

Well, while we Swedes are still Lords Of Stupid Cover Changes, I must admit that this cover is pretty strange, but at least easy to figure out. He's non-purple and reasonably happy, then he becomes purple and explodes. The message is simple: If there are any half-human half-smurfs out there, we'll blow you up!

Robert (#2152)

Location: Berlin, Germany
Posted: 2899 days ago

I am from germany and I have to admit that movie and book titles are often really strange
at least you can hope that the tranlation is quite near to the original. poor we.

Machine Man subscriber Kramy (#818)

Quote: ""it's the way of the future""
Posted: 2899 days ago

I don't get it!

Why do publisher's waste money on changing the cover for a different country (apart from the obvious spelling and perhaps cultural references).

But come on! Surely they have donunts in Germany!

-- oh and Mincetro, I'm from Australia, and read it more than 6 months ago (couldn't wait) ordered from Amazon - and oh look here's a handy link:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385514395/theofficimaxxbar

:)

Jeffrey (#2286)

Location: Right here
Quote: "Mathematics is a powerful language. Just look at how mathematicians destroyed the housing market."
Posted: 2899 days ago

Kramy is right, they shouldn't change the picture unless of course it makes it way cooler and extremely obscene. Instead of a doughnut they could have put a strudel on the cover. I think the pictures mean "buy this book or you'll turn purple and explode" which is exactly what I tell people when I want them to read something.

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 2899 days ago

I think maybe the cover artist thought it was a CIA thriller.

Kevin (#2619)

Location: USA
Posted: 2899 days ago

The Germans had the guts to say what it was really about. The pictures are of the main character before and after his company fucks him in the ass.

Ian Harris (#1034)

Location: Cambridge, UK
Quote: "£256.50, exc VAT"
Posted: 2899 days ago

Chef is German for boss. Sache means 'thing' or indeed 'case'. I reckon the translation is closer to 'a matter for the CEO'.

In which case, the dude with the shades is the boss, who gets a nasty surprise one day when one of the workers persuades all the others to fuck the CEO together. Cue explosion of arse/CEO's calm/oppressive corporate hierarchies.

Machine Man subscriber Hughbert (#1163)

Location: Australie
Quote: "We can plant a house, We could build a tree, I don't even care, We could have all three!"
Posted: 2899 days ago

Does it mean more like top-secret? Cuz that'd kinda explainstuffish.

Think um.. Company has bigtypemondosecretything. You're all happystyle until you understand what bigtypemondosecretything really is then your head go "pop!"

Yenzo (#829)

Location: Secret underwater pyramid base in the Pacific
Quote: "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe (Carl Sagan)"
Posted: 2899 days ago

Ian is right: Though Chefsache might be translated as "top priority case", it is usually refered to if the boss decides to do something on his own and the employees don't have any idea what's going on or their opinion is ignored. It was used, for example, when chancellor Schroeder made some economic decisions without asking the right people about it before.

That's why I actually like the German title. It's catchy and I think it fits quite well. A literal translation wouldn't have worked, because it would be "Firma", which is already the German title for Grisham's "The Firm".

The cover, though... That beats me. We actually don't have any donuts here (at least, no *real* donuts), but I think people would've gotten the message.

Monkey Head (#747)

Location: Germany
Quote: "bla"
Posted: 2899 days ago

No donuts in Germany? Even my small city has two Dunkin' Donuts, and almost every bakery hast something at least vaguely resembling donuts.

Matthias Truxa (#576)

Location: Germany
Quote: "Nonsens"
Posted: 2899 days ago

Ok, I can only suppose, since I didnt read your book yet (how could I).

there must be a different marketing strategy including the design to get german customers - other countries, other perceptions.
Donuts are not quite common in Germany, and on the other hand, not quite popular for generations except mine (you know, its not a european product). McDonalds & co is denounced as any fast food is, except for the youngest generation.

So because your book is likely much more serious than dunking donuts and they had to attend different thinking generations, they couldnt cover it with one - nobody would read it, since matter of design is not matter of every target group.

you have to consider the germans are highly conservative, concerned to the main target group (that is the intellectuals rather than the main stream folk). not all generations are open for free cynism, as given by an unknown Australien. so you have to lay a cover that intuitivly includes a message that tells non-open people what they have to expect in this book. this wouldnt be a donut, i suppose. neither would it be such a cover, at least for me. but i think whats meant is some kind of hierarchy or business strategy to be given a lecture on, from the perspective of an staff member of outsider - you know - confederacy, things to be aware of, things to consider, things to open your eyes on. well, none of this will hit the message of the book, i think. maybe the cover is another abstract message to arouse curiosity. at least it doesnt say much.
well, i dont buy books by cover, i always read the prologue or back text. so do many here.

Justin (#2009)

Location: Halfmoon, NY
Quote: "Max(x) is awesome!"
Posted: 2899 days ago

Yeah... looks like as he gets farther down the page, he gets angrier, until his head explodes... which seems logical. I've got no idea on the sunglasses, however.

Charles Greathouse (#219)

Location: Ohio, USA
Quote: "...for they are subtle, and quick to anger."
Posted: 2899 days ago

In a completely unrelated vein, I found large images for two of your Jennifer Government international covers:

Sweden's "Jennifer Saten":
http://213.80.60.99/sfbok/asp/artikel2.asp?VolumeID=9362

The Netherlands' "Jennifer Government":
http://www.deboekenplank.nl/naslag/aut/b/img/barry_m_jennifergovernment_2004.jpg

Joe (#2270)

Location: Campbell, CA, USA
Quote: "I'm subverting the system from the inside. I think."
Posted: 2899 days ago

Trivia item I just discovered: The German name for the film "In Good Company" was "Reine Chefsache".

Nick (#2620)

Location: Amersfoort
Quote: "Am I dreaming this?"
Posted: 2899 days ago

The strange German book cover is the result of a tragic misunderstanding.
Three weeks ago. In China, at the huge book printing factories of Heine, the book cover man was waiting for a delivery. The new designed German cover for 'Chefsache' should arrive on monday. But it didn't.
Instead arrived the cover of another book: 'The Real Dangers of Living Without an Ozon Layer'. That cover roughly summarized the content: Even with sunglasses, do not get into the naked sun or you will get tanned, then explode.
Of course our book cover man could only read Chinese characters. He was also very nervous (deadline!). So he started up the big book cover folding machine. A zillion German 'Chefsache' books were wrapped in this cover. The man shipped his 10.000 pallets. Just in time. Phew.
Maybe someone at Heine's should make a call to China.

Best regards,
Nico






austin (#2462)

Location: rhode island
Quote: "hmmm...bleh..."
Posted: 2899 days ago

The cover is simple. After you thnk about it for a very long time.

The top picture is of Jones. He has joined the company and is satisfied. Thus the :| face. He's not hatin it, he's not lovin it.

The second picture is of Jones when he figures out what the company is really about. He is sad and ashamed that the employees are being used like that. Thus the :( face.

The End.

Kristen (#1157)

Location: Jersey
Quote: "Insert quotation here."
Posted: 2899 days ago

See, it's a warning label, warning what will happen if you stare at the cover for too long... even with sunglasses on, you will eventually turn purple, grow distraught, and explode... Achtung is just so passe.

... but it could be worse. It COULD have David Hasselhoff on the cover.

Kalle (#1278)

Quote: "Sex is herital. If your parents never had it, chanses are you'll never have it either."
Posted: 2898 days ago

At least that book site Greathouse supplied has a real blurb that makes sense. I won't bother translate it, since the Swedish editors didn't bother too much themselves. (HINT: Merchandicing officer, Government, and street cred are not Swedish words.)

SilverCloud (#2038)

Location: SANTA MONICA ,CA.U.S.A.
Quote: "Fortune Favors the Brave"
Posted: 2898 days ago

It appears to be cook book cover...
How to cook with a Microwave or Nuke it til it glows..
At last a cook book for blind men seeking a four course dinner
in three minutes or less.

Yubi Shines (#1664)

Location: Canada
Quote: "HOPE RIDES ALONE!"
Posted: 2898 days ago

Sunglasses: Conceals eyes, which are generally taken as the windows to one's soul. Therefore, when a character wears sunglasses it is taken to symbolize a lack of soul, or hiding their true intentions.

Contrast between two faces: Assuming that that's Jones, first face refers to how he starts out - calm and perfectly ignorant of what's really going on. Second face is later on when he's clued in and frustrated.

Explosion: The tumble of chaotic events that occur as the book nears the end.

Done and done :D

Michael (#1299)

Location: Northern California
Quote: "Chugachugachoochoo"
Posted: 2897 days ago

I think the guy was in the sun too long, got burned, then exploded due to a spicey meal at a local Thai restaraunt. The purple coloring was just a color mix error when they put the red sunburn and explosion on the flourescent green background. Um, that would have made it brown I guess ehh...

I don't know, but my gut tells me I'm right.

Yubi Shines (#1664)

Location: Canada
Quote: "HOPE RIDES ALONE!"
Posted: 2896 days ago

...In other news, that's some nasty JPEG blurring, Max. It looks like the guy in the second picture has a horrible case of acne or leprosy or something.

Machine Man subscriber Craig Barron (#1276)

Location: Leeds, UK.
Quote: "“Trust Elizabeth to get upset over a donut.”"
Posted: 2894 days ago

why don't we ask the German publishing company?

(i know, i know its a crazy idea)

lab brat (#2561)

Location: Blue Mountains
Posted: 2892 days ago

I think it means that German publishing companies are weird.

You know, there could be a story in that somewhere. A book cover conspiracy or something. ;)

Susanne (#2636)

Location: Cologne, Germany
Posted: 2891 days ago

Yes, I am ashamed.
No, it doesn't make any sense.

Your humble German fan, Susanne

Mickey Finn (#2595)

Location: Houston, TX, USA
Posted: 2891 days ago

Germany has to have donuts, or else JFK couldn't have declared himself a jellesque confectionary.....

Rene (#2458)

Location: Austria
Quote: "To live is to die - Cliff Burton"
Posted: 2890 days ago

The often very poor translations of both books and movies are the reason why I haven't read/watched anything that's an English original in a German translation in almost 10 years.

The worst translation I know of are the Harry Potter books that fell into my hands once (after I'd already read all the originals) because my Mother was reading them as well...

@Mickey Finn: Our End of the world does know of donuts, but JFK was referring to Krapfen (Austrian word for what Germans call Berliner), which is fried yeast dough filled with jam (traditionally apricot) and has no hole through the middle... We can still afford the full disk :-p

Christian (#2192)

Location: Calgary, Canada
Quote: "If being a nerd was baseball, I'd be starting quarterback!"
Posted: 2889 days ago

That's not a cover for your book. It's a summary of the movie Terminator 2.

That's Arnold Schwarzenegger portraying our hero, T-800, when he goes back in time. He's one cold emotionless bad ass.

The purple face is him just before he gets melted down in order to prevent Terminator 3 from happening (which happened anyway).

Finally, we have an explosion as as T-101 and T-1000 are melted down and destroyed. Take that, Robert Patrick! That's right! There's no room for you in the third movie! We're hiring a sexy Terminatrix to do your job! Wooo!

...

I'm done now. Yeah..

Christian (#2192)

Location: Calgary, Canada
Quote: "If being a nerd was baseball, I'd be starting quarterback!"
Posted: 2889 days ago

Sorry, I said "T-101" when I meant to say "T-800". My appologies to any Terminator enthusiasts.

Avalon (#2687)

Location: Milan Italy
Posted: 2875 days ago

Well, I've lived in Germany for the past 5 years, and one thing that I've noticed is that Germans have a flair for creating strange covers for books. Most of the ones I've seen are very similar to this, confusing, nonsensical, and similar to something done by a kid with photoshop.

As one Non-German to another Non-German, my advice is this: Don't look for meaning. These sorts of things can only be understood by the Germans.

Thiago Mello (#2699)

Location: Brasil
Quote: "(this is my bad end)"
Posted: 2867 days ago

Colorful cover , just like the brazilian cover of Jennifer Government.Unfortunately,I think I won't read this book because I don't know if exists or not the brazilian version of Company.I still searching but I didn't found it.Anyone got any clue if it exists?or where I can find it?

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