Niall Sellar was born in Edinburgh in 1984. He studied German and Translation Studies in Dublin, Konstanz and Edinburgh, and has worked variously as a translator, teacher and reader. Alongside his translation work, he currently teaches Modern Foreign Languages in Harrow. He lives in London.
Three questions to Niall Sellar:
Why did you choose to become a translator? Is it the profession you always wanted?
I knew I wanted to work with language in some capacity, whether it be German or English. Before qualifying as a secondary school teacher, I taught English as a Foreign Language for some years. But translation has always been there. It was the aspect of language learning I enjoyed the most when studying, though I’m afraid I would be hard pushed to say exactly why. There’s just something so satisfying about recreating a text in a different language, and making it accessible to a whole new audience.
Which German book do you like the best and why?
I’m not sure I could name a favourite, but Transit by Anna Seghers is a novel that really captured my imagination. It’s set in Marseille, and, as the title suggests, details the struggles involved in obtaining a passage out of Europe during the Second World War. It’s a fascinating account of what it was like to live in exile during the Hitler Years. Exile literature is something I feel very drawn to.
Is there a particular book you would like to translate?
It’s hard to say. I’ve certainly been commissioned to do samples of books that I hoped would make it into English translation. I think the fact that more and more books are being translated, from whatever language, into English is important. I’d quite like to have a go at translating Klaus Mann’s Der Vulkan, which is his attempt to chronicle the exile experience. I don’t know if it’s been translated or not.
Klaus Mann is a figure I’m interested in, partly, of course, because of his father, but also because of his own biography – after leaving Germany he fought on the American side during the War, and ended up producing a number of works in English, including an autobiography.