The Library of the EÜK in Straelen “Everything is perfect for translators”

Nina and Marcelo on the gallery – working, living, sleeping in the library for a few weeks
Nina and Marcelo on the gallery – working, living, sleeping in the library for a few weeks | Photo (detail): © Anja Kootz

For translators Marcelo and Nina, the library of the EÜK (European Translators' College) in Straelen is the place of their dreams. No wonder, because they can even spend the night in the library.

Is there any other library in the world where you can spend the night? In the library of the Europäische Übersetzer Kollegium in Straelen you can do this – and, as a translator, you often have to. The main rooms, which contain the reference books, are open to the public. However, the library is spread out throughout the building, in every room – including the private rooms where the translators sleep. That is where mostly national literature is to be found.

Bed and books in Nina and Marcelo’s private room Bed and books in Nina and Marcelo’s private room | Photo (detail): © Anja Kootz Sometimes there is a knock on the door and someone pops in to borrow a book. Or just before we fall asleep, we suddenly come across some really unusual, interesting reading matter, such as the novel Bitter Bitch by the Swedish author, Maria Sveland. For bookworms, it is as if their childhood dreams have come true. That is also why we, a professor and an author from Brazil, both of us translators and publishers, have been spending time there every January for years.

My name is Marcelo and I have translated innumerable texts there over the years – from Lessing and Musil to Ingo Schulze, from Schiller and Schnitzler to Saša Stanišić. And again and again I have been able to work on my own novels, most recently it was A casa cai (The House Falls).

Nina Saroldi pays Sigmund Freud a visit – on the literary level, of course. Nina Saroldi pays Sigmund Freud a visit – on the literary level, of course. | Photo (detail): © Anja Kootz On the ground floor there is a large work and conference table, very close to Sigmund Freud's works in several languages and editions. That is where Nina wrote the prefaces for her series Para ler Freud (On Reading Freud) and her book on Freud's Das Unbehagen in der Kultur (Civilisation and its Discontents).

Dictionaries in over 275 languages and dialects Dictionaries in over 275 languages and dialects | Photo (detail): © Anja Kootz That is how quite a number of our works were created – in the library of the EÜK in wintry Straelen – either in the public gallery or in our private room. The reason we work so well there is because the conditions are simply perfect. All you have to do is sit down and the work comes almost automatically. The phone stays silent, nobody rings the doorbell, nothing bothers you – even on weekends.

To be able to work in peace ... To be able to work in peace ... | Photo (detail): © Anja Kootz Everything is close at hand and so convenient – from our rooms it is only half a minute to the kitchen, where we can have an interesting, cosmopolitan conversation with colleagues. And after that, we just have to walk ten paces, pass thousands of books and encyclopaedias, and again we can enjoy optimal working conditions in the gallery. In Straelen we suddenly discover how easy life can be. The peace and quiet is so great that before falling asleep, we can almost hear the soft sound of our eyelids closing.

The gallery of the library is where the dictionaries and work stations are to be found. The gallery of the library is where the dictionaries and work stations are to be found. | Photo (detail): © Anja Kootz Straelen is an exceptional place for us in every way. In what other part of the world can a tropical Brazilian like me shovel snow and with snow shovel and broom in his hand be reminded of his German ancestors and suddenly feel – in true Proustian style – that the past has become the present. Where else can you talk to a Greek colleague and then sit down with him to watch, and later discuss, the movie drama Nebraska by Alexander Payne? And then, after ten stays, in the Lower Rhine town of Straelen you finally discover the “Backespad”, a road that starts in a district with such illustrious street names as Goethe, Schiller and Lessing and then ends somewhere out in the fields.

The atrium roof – you can gaze up at the sky from the work stations on the gallery. The atrium roof – you can gaze up at the sky from the work stations on the gallery. | Photo (detail): © Anja Kootz In the library of the EÜK you can create a whole literary world in one single month. Nina is sure that she also became a tramslator because of the EÜK and its library and thus fulfilled her childhood dream – of sleeping in a library. And the good thing is – every time we go there we always make one or two new friends for life.

The Europäisches Übersetzer-Kollegium (European Translators' College) in Straelen is the world's first and largest international centre for translators of literature and non-fiction. Translators from all over the world go there with a translation contract from their publisher. The EÜK has 30 self-catering apartments and kitchens. The library is available to guests 24 hours a day. It comprises about 125,000 volumes, of which 25,000 are non-fiction and 65,000 are literary works, mostly in the original and in translation. It also contains 35,000 reference works in almost all languages and dialects and covering all fields and epochs.