2014 Gutekunst Prize Winner
Ms. Lauffer's translation was chosen as the best of over twenty submissions of an English sample from Veit Heinichen's novel, Gib jedem seinen eigenen Tod, published by Paul Zsolnay Verlag in 2001. Each sample translation was read anonymously by the jury, comprised of Peter Blackstock, associate editor at Grove Atlantic, translator Shelley Frisch, and Tess Lewis, book critic and translator, who state in their decision:
Elisabeth Lauffer's first experience with translation came in the fifth grade, when she tried to show off to kids on the school bus by reading them the letters she had received from family members in Germany. It was a tough sell. She honed her skills as a German Studies major at Wesleyan University, where her senior thesis was a full-length translation of Vladimir Kaminer's The Trip to Trulala. She put these skills to some professional use when she later got a job translating chainsaw catalogs and teen fashion magazines for three years in Berlin. Having taught in the past, Elisabeth then decided to return to the world of education, and to America, and received her Ed.M. from Harvard. She has since worked as a high school English teacher and will instruct German at the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy this summer, following a stint in India, where she has been touring schools as a college counselor. Elisabeth cycles in summer, skis in winter, cooks whenever she can, and occasionally moonlights as fiddler in a rock’n’roll band.
"This year, the passage to be translated for the Gutekunst Prize came from Veit Heinichen's Gib jedem seinen eigenen Tod, the debut volume of the author's series of Proteo Laurenti crime novels. The plot of this novel, which entails money laundering, international intrigue, and murder, opens with three seemingly unrelated strands that are later interwoven as the mystery progresses and deepens, and it is these three strands that comprise the excerpt under consideration for the prize. In evaluating more than twenty submissions, the jury determined that Elisabeth Lauffer best captured the shifting tones of the original German and the use of idiom. She was also adept at infusing her translation with the particular energy of Heinichen's prose. Elisabeth's flair for language is evident throughout her translation, and her ingenious solutions to some of the trickiest passages are impressive indeed."
Commenting on her translation of the Veit Heinichen text, she writes:
Elisabeth Lauffer's Prize Winning Translation (PDF, 88KB)
"I have typically been one to translate very close to the original, but when I read through Heinichen's text the first few times, I decided there would be nothing lost in trying a new approach that was more about conveying atmosphere and tone. I do not read many thrillers, but there was something highly cinematic about the text's pacing and imagery, and I found I was channeling the joint influence of The Sopranos, the opening sequence of Tatort, and clips of unidentified cop or spy movies from the 70s, with their saturated colors and crackly soundtracks, that I always seem to happen upon while channel surfing late-night at my grandmother's house. I liked that this was a text I would not necessarily pick off the bookshelf, because the challenge was then how to create a translation that would appeal to fans of the genre who have read it all before."
Ms. Lauffer will receive an award in the amount of $2,500 and present her translation at a prize ceremony at the Goethe-Institut New York on Monday, June 9, 2014.
The jury also has awarded honorable mention to Wendy Hardenberg, commending the fluidity and grace of her entry.