Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Uwe Tellkamp Meets His Translators

Twice a year, Germany's translators' centre in Straelen plays host to a German writer and his or her translators, meeting up to collaborate on their translations. This time around, it's the 2008 German Book Prize winner Uwe Tellkamp, with translators into Bulgarian, Danish, French, Italian, Catalan, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Czech and Hungarian.

Can you spot the missing language? Yes, we can assume there is no English-language publisher daring enough to translate the "German Booker-winner". Called "a monumental panorama of the declining East Germany" and "the great pre-89 novel", it won't be available to English readers. Could this be anything to do with the fact that it's over 900 pages long?

Interestingly enough, this confirms a bit of a trend. So far, the English-speaking world has only picked up the German Book Prize winners written by women. Perhaps we're scared of German (and Austrian) men? Perhaps the judges could kindly take this into account this time around, providing a nice unthreatening lady winner to woo British and American publishers.

More information on the book at The Complete Review and on the workshop at EUK Straelen.


Harvey Morrell said...

It will be interesting to see if Kehlmann's latest gets translated into English. As for Tellkamp, why don't you give it a go? :) That way they can point to a female translator.

kjd said...

Ah, Harvey, if wishes were horses, there'd be a whole stable full of books with my name on chomping on the hay of Anglo-American recognition... and there wouldn't even be room for Der Turm in there, it'd have to be tethered to a post outside nibbling at a patch of yellowed grass.

Sadly, I don't have the required funds to start my own publishing house. Or the required guts. I shall just carry on cheering from the sidelines as the jockeys thunder past me in their brightly coloured silks.

Harvey Morrell said...

I hear you! Every time I toy with the idea of translating someone like Friedrich Ani (your horse racing bit led me to thinking about Dick Francis, which then got me onto the subject of mysteries and then circled back to German mystery writers...), I somehow get sidetracked into doing something else.

Karl-Marx-Straße said...

I just heard a report on Deutsche Welle about Tellkamp meeting his translators and had to wonder about how they are chosen.

I suggest that translators who are willing to be interviewed by the "German World Service" and complain that they don't really understand a lot of the GDR references (the exasperated question "what is Pittiplatch?" was one of my favourites - even Wikipedia in English supplies the answer to that one, though I think it was the Spanish translator who was feeling a bit lost) was on and that makes it all too complicated need

- a bit more cultural education;
- to learn to use google;
- to consider whether they are translating the right kind of books;
- to consider what they say into a microphone as this could affect how people see their competence.

So: how do translators get picked? Is it often a coincidence?