Jackie Smith

Jackie Smith © Jackie Smith Jackie Smith is a literary translator working from German and French into English. After graduating from Cambridge University she worked as a commercial translator before dedicating herself full-time to creative and book translations. In 2015 she was selected to participate in the New Books in German ‘Emerging Translators Programme’. Her translation of an excerpt from Hans Platzgumer’s novel Am Rand (On the Edge) won the Austrian Cultural Forum London Translation Prize 2017. Recently published translations include The Panama Papers (see below), and Pope Francis by Marie Duhamel.


Three questions to Jackie Smith

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

At Cambridge the work I most enjoyed was that which involved grappling with language itself – essay-writing, oral expression and translation, for example. There seemed to be many jobs where foreign languages were regarded as a useful additional asset, but I was determined to find one where using my French and German really would be central. So I took a Postgraduate Diploma in Translation and Interpreting at Bradford University, and, though tempted by a career in interpreting, I worried it may prove stressful and came to the conclusion that translation suited my personality better!
Which German book do you like the best and why?

It has to be Der Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. It made a deep impression on me when I first read it at the age of 17 or 18. I was completely drawn in by the protagonist’s torment and struggle to come to terms with his dualistic nature, by his magical and transcendental experiences, the mirrors and ambiguities, the thrilling intensity. Another book – which couldn’t be more different! – that I read recently and loved was Er ist wieder da ('Look who's back') by Timur Vermes, a satire imagining Hitler returning to a modern-day Germany, which I thought was so daring and unusual and had me laughing out loud.
Is there a particular book you would like to translate?

Der Trost der Rache (The Comfort of Revenge) by Austrian author Wilfried Steiner made a big impression on me when I read it recently and I’d love to translate it. It combines themes of astronomy and political torture, and poses a moral dilemma that grips and moves the reader.


Selection of translated titles

  • Bastian Obermayer; Frederik Obermaier: The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money (Panama Papers: Die Geschichte einer weltweiten Enthüllung), Oneworld Publications, 2016 (translated with Alice Paul, Simon Pare & Seiriol Dafydd)