© Tony Crawford
Tony Crawford was born in Milwaukee and studied Comparative Literature with French in Los Angeles and lives in Berlin. His translation work has been recognised by New Books in German’s Emerging Translators' Programme, No Man’s Land magazine, Berlin, and the DAAD/IMLR Encounters competition.
Three questions to Tony Crawford
As a young man I had no clear vocation. But I had a certain talent for language, which I eventually discovered is a talent for multiple languages. Now my work involves reading books, connecting ideas and playing with words, so you might say I do for a living what I have always enjoyed most.
One book? I’m especially partial to autobiographical narrative. Not because it’s true – everybody lies – but because it has a peculiar urgency; the teller’s interest in the tale is existential. And that gives the narrative, regardless of style, a sense of immediacy, makes it human, compassionate, direct. Also, life is perhaps the best inventor of plot: reality gets away with improbable twists that create their own necessity while defying plausibility. Like the existence of human life in the first place. I like Fritz Mühlenweg’s wanderings and meetings in the Gobi desert; I like Christa Wolf’s reflective season on the Pacific coast in Los Angeles; I like Oskar Maria Graf’s profligate dilettantism in the Bavarian entre-guerre.
I am sure there is. It is narrative, but its diction and its style are poetic; it is European in scope; it is personal, urgent and political; it may be contemporary or historic, but in either case it looks towards the past and the future, inward and outward, with a unifying spirit. Until I find it, I am pecking away at a translation of Franz Jung’s memoir, Der Weg nach unten. Jung was a duellist, a deserter, a pianist, a pirate, a Dadaist, a journalist, a revolutionary, a management consultant, a theatre producer, a secret agent, a swindler … A desperate man, batted back and forth between revolutionary hope and an innate self-fulfilling pessimism; not someone I’d like to know personally. Like his novels – like his life – his autobiography is an attempt to make sense of a world that was stark raving mad.