Monday, 10 March 2014

On Christa Wolf's "August"

Last year I had the great pleasure of translating Christa Wolf's last piece of writing, the story "August". I was very proud and also very nervous, because I (foolishly, perhaps) thought it would be the kind of book people would actually read and review. So to calm me down, I wrote about the experience. The translation came out last month from Seagull Books and the essay that came about as its by-product is now online at The Quarterly Conversation.


Douglas Irving said...

Hi Katy, I've been reading article about how you approached translating Christa Wolf's final short story. It's a complex process of preparation by the sounds of it! I was particularly interested to hear you mention Anna Seghers. As a budding translator (currently studying at Glasgow University) I have been attempting to translate into English one of her later works, 'Ueberfahrt. Eine Liebesgeschichte'. It is certainly an extremely involving process, but one that I feel compelled to see through to the end, despite the fact that my inadequate German language skills mean it's going to take me forever! But I wonder if I could ask you, out of interest, whether you thought there would be a publisher interested in Seghers, given the fact she was essentially part of the GDR literary institution for the best part of twenty years. It has been suggested to me that a publisher would not necessarily want to be associated with her. Or would they simply consider what is a great story on its own merits, despite the inevitable GDR references it contains? I'd be interested to hear what you thought!

Thank you for a very interesting blog with lots of useful links.

Best wishes

Douglas Irving

kjd said...

Hi Douglas,

New York Review Books recently published a new translation of Seghers' Transit, so I don't know whether that consideration holds. Transit was written in exile, of course, while Überfahrt is a much later work. But still - I think if any publisher is going to dig up an old East German writer they'd probably have plenty of guts either way.

I would truly love to translate her Ausflug der toten Mädchen, by the way. So sad and beautiful.

Douglas Irving said...

Hello again Katy. Many thanks for mentioning the NYRB's publication of Seghers' 'Transit' last year. I thought it would do no harm to contact them and they have expressed an interest in at least looking at my translation of 'Ueberfahrt'. Fingers crossed! Many thanks again for bringing this to my attention.