Stephen Lehmann

Stephen Lehmann © Stephen Lehmann Stephen Lehmann grew up in a German-speaking home in California - although his family had fled Hitler's Germany, they remained resolutely devoted to the culture in which they had been raised - and endured two stints in a Swiss boarding school.

After obtaining an M.A. in German literature at the University of California (Berkeley), he became a librarian, editor, translator and biographer (Rudolf Serkin: A Life, Oxford University Press, 2003, with Marion Faber).


Three questions to Stephen Lehmann

Why did you choose to become a translator? Is it the profession you always wanted?

I fell into it. In the early 1980s I was asked by the then-editor of University of Nebraska Press - the remarkable Willis Regier - whether I'd be interested in translating Nietzsche's Human, All Too Human, which had last been translated in the early years of twentieth century. By nature and professional training, I am happiest working collaboratively, and I suggested the project to Marion Faber, a professor of German at Swarthmore College and already an experienced translator. As Nietzsche was in the public domain, the publisher could afford to give us generous terms - the book was published over thirty years ago, and we still get regular royalty checks. None of this work-for-hire business. The books I've worked on have all been intensely collaborative - not only with Marion Faber, with whom I've continued to work, but with the authors - those who are alive! - and the publishers.
Which German book do you like the best and why?

Victor Klemperer's Diaries, 1933-1945, for their intelligence, irony, honesty and unique historical value.
Is there a particular book you would like to translate?

Whenever I find myself really enjoying a German book, I imagine translating it, asking myself how I would render this word, that phrase, etc. I've just started Albert Vigoleis's Die Insel des zweiten Gesichts and keep wondering how I would manage its playful, idiosyncratic prose. But I see that Donald White has beaten me to it. Thank goodness.

  • Thomas Mann: The Tables of the Law (Das Gesetz). Philadelphia, Pa. : Paul Dry Books, 2010 (with Marion Faber)
  • Stefan Klein: The Science of Happiness (Die Glücksformel). New York : Marlowe & Company, 2006
  • Stephan Wackwitz: An Invisible Country (Ein unsichtbares Land). Philadelphia : Paul Dry Books, 2005
  • Friedrich Nietzsche: Human, All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches). Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 1984 (with Marion Faber)