© Nick Somers
Nick Somers was born in 1949 in Liverpool and went to school there. Afterwards he studied American History at Sussex University and finally moved to Germany in 1976, where he taught English – in between travelling extensively.
After moving on to work for a translation agency for six years, he went freelance in 1988. In 1990 he moved with his wife to Vienna, Austria, where they have lived since. Over the years in Vienna, apart from working for international organisations (UN, IAEA, OSCE), he has established himself as a specialist in general culture and history, translating catalogues and exhibition texts for museums (Jewish Museum, Belvedere, Wien Museum, Mozarthaus and others) and for the tourist infrastructure. It was through this that he moved, in 2009, into the book world.
Three questions to Nick Somers
Like many translators on this site, I came to translation fortuitously. My father was a German teacher, so I might have inherited a feeling for languages from him – in my schooldays at least. I also went to a traditional school where we had compulsory Latin and an old-fashioned approach to the English language, with much emphasis on grammar and style. I didn’t see the point at the time, but it has been worth its weight in gold in my chosen profession. Anyway, while working as an English teacher in Wiesbaden, I had the opportunity to do a few translations. That took me to a translation agency in the Bavarian hinterland for six years, where you could say I learned my trade. That laid the foundation, and it evolved from there. I have to say that even after more than thirty years in the job I am still absolutely passionate about what I do. Translation is really “the more you know, the more you don’t know.” Not original, I admit, but humbling and always exhilarating.
Most of the German I read is work-related. And as history is my speciality and as I am fascinated by the history of Vienna over the last 150 years, you’ll find someone like Brigitte Hamann on my bookshelf. Apart from that, I read very little in German, sadly, quite simply because there is so much literature in English that I haven’t read, and I tend to give that priority. Two short books that come to mind are Eine blassblaue Frauenschrift by Franz Werfel and Der Vorleser by Bernhard Schlink.
After having enjoyed and invested so much into the Sigmund/Anna Freud correspondence, I would absolutely love to translate the “Brautbriefe”, the correspondence between Freud and his (future) wife. As far as I know, two (of a planned five) volumes have been published to date in German. Having been in Vienna for over twenty years and living practically within walking distance of Freud’s apartment, I really feel a connection with this whole period.
- Hannah’s Dress: Berlin 1904-2014 (La Robe de Hannah) by Pascale Hugues. Polity Press, Cambridge, 2017
- Ego: The Game of Life (Ego: Das Spiel des Lebens) by Frank Schirrmacher. Polity Press, Cambridge, 2015
- Sigmund Freud / Anna Freud: Correspondence (Briefwechsel) 1904-1938. Polity Press, 2013
- Hans-Joachim Neumann / Henrik Eberle: Was Hitler Ill? (War Hitler krank?). Polity Press, 2013
- Uta Gerhardt / Thomas Karlauf (eds.): The Night of Broken Glass - Eyewitness Accounts of Kristallnacht (Nie mehr zurück in dieses Land. Augenzeugen berichten über die Novemberpogrome 1938). Polity Press, 2012
- Doron Rabinovici: Eichmann's Jews - The Jewish Administration of Holocaust Vienna 1938-1945 (Instanzen der Ohnmacht. Wien 1938-1945. Der Weg zum Judenrat). Polity Press, 2011