Monday, 9 January 2012

Unusual Translator Home Story

I rather like those glossy magazine "At home with..." features, where a journalist is shown around a celebrity's home, all neat and tidy with polished leather seating. You don't get that very often with translators though, do you? Possibly because, judging by all the translators I know, their homes are a bit too messy and shabby and full of less than photogenic bookshelves. Also, translators tend not to have the same interior decorating budget as your average celebrity. Or maybe it's because nobody's quite as interested in translators as they are in Pippa Middleton.

But the dam seems to be breaking if we're to judge by a recent featurette in Cicero magazine - Grazia for German intellectuals. Intrepid reporter Daniel Schreiber goes to visit translator-turned-literary agent Karin Graf and her partner Joachim Sartorius at home in Berlin. Sadly, the budget didn't stretch to a photographer. But we do get minute details of the way they arrange their library. Wisely, they waited a couple of decades before uniting their personal bookshelves. It's all rather reminiscent of MTV Cribs, with Sartorius quoting his own poetry to explain how literature keeps their love burning bright. 
Lining the white walls throughout the entire house are the plainest and simultaneously most gracious bookshelves one could imagine. The couple's libraries, which they kept separate for a long time, were so large that they required their own move before the furniture arrived in the house. Two booksellers were employed to pack up the books, weed out duplicates and put them all back on the shelves in Westendallee.
Am I tickling your envy bone yet? It gets better. Travel books and German literature in the spacious top-floor master bedroom, French, English and international literature on the first floor, art books alongside the art collection in the salon, non-fiction down in the basement.
In Graf's study are editions of the impressive number of books she has translated; including authors such as Joan Didion and Susan Sontag, Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, Salman Rushdie and V. S. Naipaul. The books by the writers she represents are kept separately in her agency.
Sadly, Schreiber is too busy establishing the literary fluff piece genre to inform us of how Graf came to be living in such palatial surroundings after starting off as a lowly translator. She is not alone, however: Ulla Unseld-Suhrkamp-Berkéwicz, Harry Lindenstraße-Rowohlt and Denis Druckfrisch-Scheck have all translated in the past and are now dripping with diamonds, pearls and sycophants. So there is hope for us yet - provided we have wealthy parents, marry well and/or opt for a career change. I'm still open for offers for my own TV show, by the way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Denis Scheck spends all his money on food; there's nothing left for diamonds or pearls.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

A-and at least he's reading Pynchon.

Btw, Katy, I'd watch your TV-show, too.