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Translator Focus:

NBG interviews the translator
Imogen Rose Taylor


How did you get into translation and how has your career developed?

When I moved to Berlin from England, I just said yes every time I was asked whether I translated. That way I had odds and ends of translation work all through my Masters and PhD and managed to build up a few contacts. Then, a few hours after Iíd handed in my PhD thesis, I got an email from Michael Heyward of Text Publishing asking me to translate Sascha Arangoís The Truth and Other Lies, and of course I said yes to that too. Iím now working on my third book with Text.

What have been your most enjoyable translation projects?
My very first translation project was to put Brahmsí Forty-Nine Folk Songs into singable English verse. That was great fun. I always read my translations aloud, but that was the only time I had to sing them. Another exciting project was translating the screenplay of The Truth and Other Lies. Sascha Arango is a screenwriter by trade so he wrote his own script. It was fascinating to see how a novel gets Ďtranslatedí into film; so many things that have to be spelled out in a novel can be left unspoken Ė and vice versa.

Do you get in touch with the living writers you translate? Is there a palpable difference between translating a living and a dead author?
Yes! I get in touch with them Ė and meet them too. Itís the reward for all those solitary hours with only dictionaries for company. My questions tend to be pretty niggling ones to clear up ambiguities or check obscure words. Whether an author is dead or alive doesnít really affect the translation work. But maybe thereís a different feel to it; if the authorís dead, youíre a little more in control and a little lonelier.

What are you working on at the moment? Do you tend to translate one book at a time, or have several projects on the go at once?
At the moment Iím working on The Scholl Case by Anja Reich, a true crime story. I only translate one book at a time and tend to get quite sucked in by it. But I also translate sample extracts and other bits and pieces along the way.

Which book would you still like to translate? Are you interested in translating a particular genre other than crime fiction?
Iíve translated some Peter Kurzeck with Stefan Tobler and would love to translate more. Walter Kappacher is another author who has been too long neglected. Iíd be happy to take on any genre, but I would like to work on something more literary and/or older at some point.

Would you say that itís easier or harder to find projects by basing yourself in Germany rather than the UK?
I donít think many translators find projects by knocking on publishersí doors, and it doesnít matter where you send your emails from; if it did, I wouldnít be translating for a publisher in Melbourne. Itís definitely a bonus to have easy access to German bookshops, libraries and newspapers Ė and to be surrounded by native speakers who will answer your questions.

Imogen Rose Taylor
Photo: private

What advice would you give to new translators? Do you find that schemes such as the Emerging Translators Programme from NBG are useful?
Hang on in there. It takes patience Ė or stubbornness, if that sounds too virtuous. The NBG Emerging Translators Programme was a great help to me. Above all, it was very encouraging.

Interview with Meg OíSullivan