Friday, 7 March 2008

Translator Wins Medal

This makes me so happy! As the VdÜ has pointed out, John E. Woods is going to be awarded the Goethe Medal. Hooray! That puts him on a par with Karl Popper, Billy Wilder and Daniel Barenboim!

The medal is awarded - finds sober voice again - to honour outstanding achievements in the field of international cultural mediation. It's an official state medal presented by the Goethe Institut. And John E. Woods will presumably wear it on every possible occasion - I certainly would. I wonder if it's on a little pin for his jacket or a full-on Jim'll Fix It-style dangler?

Here's John on John:

"There are many images for what the translator does. The one I finally hit on for myself is that I am essentially a performing artist, in much the same way as the violinist or musical performer takes a musical score – for other people simply black dots on a page – and turns it into something that others can enjoy. I think that we fulfill the same mediating position."
In: Harman, Mark: "A Conversation with John E. Woods". Translation Review, Nr. 44/45, 1994

So modest. John has translated all sorts of impressive people - Doris Dörrie, Thomas Mann, Arno Schmidt, Ingo Schulze. He also claims to be the only translator in the US who makes his living out of literary translation alone. Only the thing is, he's not - in the US, that is. Because he lives right here in the heart of Berlin - round the corner from me. I sometimes see him out shopping, and stop to fawn embarrassingly because I'm so utterly in awe. Next time he goes down to Extra, I hope he'll be sporting his medal for all to see. Then I'll march up to him and shout it out to all the other shoppers and staff: "Look! Behold this beautiful shiny medal! This man has been honoured for his outstanding achievements in the field of cultural mediation! Bow down before his hallowed feet and give him a discount on the gerkins, O ye of little faith!"

No comments: