Grants to professional translators

Ein Projekt in Zusammenarbeit:

The Art of Translation

Foto: Luc SaalfeldAn evening with Uwe Timm and his translators as part of the Goethe-Institut’s translator’s residency programme

Starting in autumn 2009, the Cultural Foundation of the Free State of Saxony has made its residency hall for scholarship-holders in Dresden-Hellerau available to international translators of German fiction. In 2011, in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, five scholarship-holders were able to devote themselves to their translation projects, ranging from Günter Grass to Andreas Maier, in an atmosphere of quiet and concentration.

Foto: Luc Saalfeld
From left: Matteo Galli, Alexandra Pavlou, Uwe Timm, Olaf Petersenn

“It’s a wonderful programme for both parties,” explains Angelika Gieske of the Cultural Foundation. “We have a lively exchange with the scholarship-holders and are learning a great deal about their projects and work methods. And for their part, the translators appreciate the good working conditions and the cultural offerings of the City of Dresden.”

On 5 October 2011, a panel discussion was held for the first time in Dresden’s Kulturhaus Loschwitz to raise the residency programme’s public profile. The Greek translator Alexandra Pavlou, who had just begun her stay in Hellerau, met one of “her” authors, Uwe Timm. Another guest, Matteo Galli, Uwe Timm’s Italian translator and professor of German literature at the University of Ferrara, spoke about the difficulties involved in awakening the interest of foreign publishers in German fiction, and the decisive role translators play as mediators in this connection.

Foto: Luc SaalfeldUwe Timm opened the evening with a reading from his newly-released novella “Freitisch” (translated in English as “A Free Lunch”). Thanks to expert moderation by Olaf Petersenn, Timm’s editor at Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch, the audience gained insights into the every-day work world of translators. For instance, how does one translate the title “Die Entdeckung der Currywurst” (published in English as “The Invention of Curried Sausage”)? Matteo Galli decided on a neologism, thus enriching the Italian language with la currywurst. Alexandra Pavlou related with great regret that her Greek publisher had arbitrarily changed the title “Am Beispiel meines Bruders” (published in English as “In My Brother’s Shadow: A Life and Death in the SS”) to “My Brother, the Nazi,” for the sake of publicity. Uwe Timm said that one should realise that translations have a life of their own that, in the final analysis, cannot be controlled by the author. In general, though, he stated that he has been very lucky with his translators. The works of this Munich “native by choice” have now been translated into about 20 languages, among them exotic ones such as Thai.

Just how profoundly the European currency and financial crisis is influencing the culture industry as well, was underscored when Alexandra Pavlou mentioned that turnover in the Greek book trade has fallen by about 70% since the beginning of the crisis. Not only translators need new strategies to secure their professional existence. The support of public funding institutions is more important than ever.
Andreas Schmohl

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    Goethe-Institut Translation Programme

    Programme for Promoting the Translation of German Books into a Foreign Language

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