My joblife began, when in 1973 or thereabouts school and I parted company for good after eleven years of an uneasy relationship. We simply couldn't get used to each other. I started out as assisstant in a fashion shop of local renown, aiming for later study at a college specializing in this trade, but after just one month I was sure this was not my thing. At the age of seventeen I felt stomach-crampingly humiliated when former class mates who had stayed at school and were now preparing for their graduation, came sauntering past and saw me sweeping the lobby or cleaning the windows.
Luckily my qualifications were just about good enough to get me a job at the post-office where I didn't do bad at all - rising up the ladder till I realized that this comfortable feeling of quiet contenment must be BOREDOM. I quit.
While I was still lumbering away at school, one of my
sisters was well on her way to become an English teacher
and during summer holidays unhappy me used to be the
victim of her cruel ambition to be a successful
teacher - above all! - of that horrible, th-riddled
language that was one of my many weak subjects.
(Mind you, this was in the years when the American Way of Life was only beginning to advance upon us, arms linked with that uncouth phenomenon of British pop music - and my home an island in that rising sea, ringed round with and protected by Beethoven, Schlagermusik and contemptuous deafness.)
As it turned out her efforts worked well for both of us. Sister dearest has since become a successful moulder of future generations ;-) and I honed my newly awakened lingual talents by undertaking to translate "The Lord of the Rings" for the benefit of my non-Englisch speaking mother. Germany at that time didn't know about the Tolkien-mania that was soon to errupt; said sister had brought LotR with her from England, over here we still looked askance at the strange term "fantasy literature" and wondered what to make of it.
Not for long, though. I seem to remember Pabel
was one of first to publish extensively in that segment:
'Terra Fantasy' kindled the fascination of a wide
readership with fantasy stories mainly from GB and the US
but also the MAGIRA-cycle by German author Hubert Straßl,
aka Hugh Walker.
Inspired, I, like many others, tried my hand at writing stories and indeed managed to get some of them published. In addition I was hired to work with others on a newly conceived SF series to be published as novelette on a weekly basis: Die Terranauten". The book was to be my one and only, the SF series expired after # 50 or so, and lo!, I found myself a freelance translator in the field of SF and Fantasy literature thanks to the training on LotR. (Never got past Book One, and oh my, did I bungle the task!)
That job has kept me busy for 24 years now. Don't be mistaken, it's hard work, even at times when it might seem you're just lolling about in a chair and staring out of the window for hours on end. The hustle and bustle is going on inside all the while and man, it can be frustrating!
"I know Sam (Raimi) has to pull out all the stops
when he's working on a picture and disregard everything
else. Any crew member you talk to will say that shooting
a picture is what they really love, but that it drags
every ounce out of them. When they're not making pictures
they're usually crawling the walls. It's a love-hate
thing. I learned from Sam that putting the effort into it
means you get it back. You have the picture. That's your
little gift. Every time the film is shown you can go:
'Thank goodness I didn't wimp out of doing this or that...'
Bruce Campbell said that in an interview many years ago (SAMHAIN #3, May/June 1987) and, still in the business, says much the same when asked today, and though he's talking about filmmaking I've often thought of his words when slaving away at some tome or other, racking my brain for exactly the right word/term/expression/phrase (and back in the age of typewriters dreading to find it, because enlightenment usually happened when the job was almost finished and it meant going back through several hundred already typed pages looking for that drat word, smearing around with correction fluid, having trouble to insert it into the text if it was longer than the rejected one).
There have been weeks of bleak despair, months of living in a nightmare, getting more and more estranged from loved ones, from reality itself. And I was not even writing that book, just translating it, but more often than not you have to start research from scratch, especially when it's a good story and the author put a lot of effort into creating it.
Thank god I've been spared real stinkers, though some were pretty tough in terms of dullness. As a reader one probably never realizes how many passages are skipped by eye and brain - translating a text you have to read and work it all, even if it's just dry stuffing. You don't want to have to face, when finally presented with the printed German edition of the book in question, all the bleak spots in the text where you know you've "whimped out of doing this or that", i.e. took the easiest road, shirked the need of putting in some extra effort.
But no matter how hard it may have been
- a treadmill, solitary confinement, a wrestle with
untranslatable metaphors, puns, anecdotes and the eternal
dilemma of walking the tightrope between violation of a
text and justifiable changes - not very long after the
bundle has been sent off by snail-mail and as e-mail
attachment you begin -
crawling the walls.
It's a love-hate thing...
translations up to date
areas of expertise