Tess Lewis

Tess Lewis © Tess Lewis Tess Lewis is a writer and translator from French and German. Her translations include works by Peter Handke, Maja Haderlap, Christine Angot and Philippe Jaccottet. She has won a number of awards including the 2015 ACFNY Translation Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

She is an Advisory Editor for The Hudson Review and writes essays and reviews of European literature for a number of journals and newspapers. In 2014 and 2015, Ms. Lewis curated Festival Neue Literatur, New York City’s premiere annual festival of German language literature in English.


Three questions to Tess Lewis

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

Actually, I wanted to be an editor for as long as I can remember. I spent two decades editing and writing about translated literature. During that time I translated some essays and short fiction now and then. I’d always enjoyed translating, but didn’t really get hooked until I translated some stories by the Austrian writer Alois Hotschnig. The nuances and modulations of his style are very subtle and quite challenging to render in English. It was a thrill to inhabit a voice so different than mine and so much more fun than editing. Every project is still a new adventure.
Which German book do you like the best and why?

I can’t choose a single favorite, but one of the books I return to most often is Joseph Roth’s Radetzky March. Roth captures the spirit and spectacle of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in its final days so vividly, that his novel sucks you into its world immediately and completely no matter how many times you read it.
Is there a particular book you would like to translate?

I would love to try my hand at Siebenkäs (Flower, Fruit and Thorn Pieces; or, the Married Life, Death and Wedding of Siebenkäs, Poor Man’s Lawyer) by Jean Paul, Germany’s Laurence Sterne and wildly comic 18th century writer to whom we owe so many indispensable German words like Weltschmerz, Doppelgänger, Angsthase, etc. And some day, when I’ve got more experience with meter and rhyme, I’d love to translate the 17th century poet Paul Fleming, whose love poetry is startlingly fresh.

  • Hans Magnus Enzensberger: Enzensberger’s Panopticon. Forthcoming Seagull Books
  • Lutz Seiler: Kruso. Scribe Publications, 2017
  • Klaus Merz: Stigmata of Bliss: Three Novellas (Jakob Schläft, LOS, Der Argentinier). Seagull Books 2017
  • Maja Haderlap: Angel of Oblivion (Engel des Vergessens). Archipelago Books, 2016
  • Anselm Kiefer: Notebooks: Vol. 1, 1998-1999 (Notizbücher). Seagull Books, 2015
  • Melinda Nadj Abonji: Fly Away, Pigeon (Tauben Fliegen auf). Seagull Books 2014
  • Alois Hotschnig: Ludwig’s Room (Ludwigs Zimmer). Seagull Books 2014
  • Doron Rabinovici: Elsewhere (Andernorts) Haus Publishing 2014
  • Alois Hotschnig: Maybe This Time (Die Kinder beruhigte das nicht) Peirene Press 2011
  • Peter Handke: Once Again for Thucydides (Noch einmal für Thucydides) New Directions 1998