© Oliver Latsch
Oliver Latsch was born in 1969 and spent the first six years of his life in Zambia and Kenya. On his sixth birthday his family moved back to Germany where he spent his school years in Hamburg and completed his national service.
He studied Ecology and Conservation at the University of Sussex in the UK, and then completed a PhD in Ecology at Imperial College in London. After having completed his PhD, Cornelia Funke approached him to help her find a publisher for her books in the UK.
What was only meant to be a temporary project quickly turned into a full-time job, and he has now worked as Cornelia's literary agent for over thirteen years. Since 2008 he has lived with his family in Los Angeles, close to Cornelia Funke.
Three questions to Oliver Latsch
When I was a young student, nothing could have been further from my mind than becoming a translator. I became one because after I’d finished my PhD in Biology, my cousin asked me to try and find an English publisher of Cornelia Funke’s books. Cornelia had always wanted to see one of her books in an English bookshop, near to those of her heros such as T H White, C S Lewis, Tolkien, or Roald Dahl. As I had studied in England, Cornelia thought I’d be the right person for the job. After my initial conversations with English publishers, I soon learned that there wasn’t much of a readership for German books in the UK so I translated the Herr der Diebe (The Thief Lord) and Drachenreite (Dragon Rider) into English, to make it easier for the publishers to decide. This strategy paid off and the books were soon published very successfully in England and the USA. I spent the next few years managing the sale of international publishing rights to Cornelia’s books. The translation of the Tintenherz (Inkheart) trilogy was done by the formidable Anthea Bell. I turned my hand to translation again when Cornelia and Lionel Wigram worked together on Reckless and I acted as a kind of simuntaneous translator by translating the latest proofs into English for Lionel. I therefore ended up translating the final version and I’m currently working on the translation of the second part of Reckless (Lebendige Schatten).
Of all the books I read as a child I particularly remember Borba und der Bär by Franz-Josef Tripp (which I probably read fifty times), Momo by Michael Ende, Die Rote und ihre Bande by Kurt Held, and Jüppa und der Zigeuner by Wolf Klaußner. Why these books? I’d probably need to read them all again, and maybe my younger self would whisper to me what it was about these stories that I liked so much.
I’ve honestly never thought about this. As it was a complete fluke that I got into translation, I still don’t think of myself as a proper translator. I don’t know whether I would ever translate the text of other authors than Cornelia Funke. I feel a close affinity to Cornelia’s writing as I have known her since my childhood, so I understand her prose and her tone very well. Now I’ve probably disqualified myself from being a part of this whole project!