Hilary Parnfors grew up in northern Germany in a bilingual household with a British mother and a Czech father. She was educated in the UK from the age of ten. After undergraduate and postgraduate studies in politics, law and modern languages, she worked as a researcher at governmental institutions and in the private sector. She now lives in Stockholm and works full-time as a translator from German and Swedish to English. Although she has largely translated non-fiction publications to date, she has recently been able to fulfil a long-held dream of working with literary texts.
Three questions to Hilary Parnfors:
Why did you choose to become a translator? Is it the profession you always wanted?
I grew up in a multilingual household (English, Czech and German) and there were always people of different nationalities coming to stay. That meant that someone was always interpreting for someone else. I also loved learning languages at school, especially as I discovered that so many of them are linked. After studying modern languages and politics at university, I worked with political and market research. I had been doing translations for NGOs for a few years, but it was not until I had children that I started working as a full-time translator. I love the freedom, creativity and challenge of this profession. I love cogitating about different sentences, trying to find that perfect word!
Which German book do you like the best and why?
I have to say Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum. We read it at school, over and over again. It was the first time I'd really "dissected" a book like that, page by page. The story seemed so catastrophic and shocking to me back then. I recently reread it and somehow this simple yet dramatic story captured my imagination once again.
Is there a particular book you would like to translate?
I'm very open to translating different genres and texts. Perhaps something by a young female author about contemporary life in Germany? More than twenty years have passed, but I still enjoy reading stories surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall. It happened the day after my tenth birthday and it was this that really fuelled my interest in politics. It was so hard to understand how a wall could divide people like that.