Carolin Sommer

Carolin Sommer © Carolin Sommer Carolin Sommer was born in Germany in 1972. She lived in the US for a year as an au-pair before enrolling in a European language degree course based at universities in Cologne, Aix-en-Provence and London.

In 1997, Carolin moved to London where she worked for a German IT company translating computer programs and manuals into English. Her career then took her away from translating and into IT until she tooka career break to raise her family. When her youngest child started school in 2011, Carolin decided to go back to what she loved best: Translating. She was honoured to translate the memoirs of the great German merchant and entrepreneur Ignaz Bing, her husband's great-great-grandfather. Tales From My Life offers a rare and insightful glimpse into the life of a Jewish family in 19th-century Germany.

Her first published translation was Jennifer Teege’s moving story, My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me (2015). Carolin Sommer now lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband and their three children.

Three questions to Carolin Sommer

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

I never set out to become a translator and chose a translation degree course almost by accident. Nonetheless, I found myself in London in my first job translating computer manuals. Terribly boring. I moved on as quickly as I could. More than ten years later, after a career in IT and a few years of being a full-time mother, I wanted to return to work: preferably working from home, during school hours, using the skills I have, doing something I love…. Translating was the obvious choice, and I was very excited when I was given the opportunity to translate Ignaz Bing’s memoirs into English. It confirmed my passion for the job, I couldn’t wait to get to work in the mornings. The idea of taking someone’s creative work, especially one that moved me deeply, and making it available to a readership who would not be able to access that work without my intervention was awe-inspiring and humbling at the same time. It made me realise how much trust is placed in the translator, and I felt proud to honour that trust to the best of my ability. Being a translator is a huge responsibility, and a great privilege.
Which German book do you like the best and why?

As a child I adored everything by Erich Kästner, and I still think his books are terribly clever. I loved Erich Maria Remarque’s Im Westen Nichts Neues for its brutal honesty and sharp observations. More recently I enjoyed Marlen Haushofer’s Die Wand and (much more recently) Marc Elsberg’s topical Blackout.
Is there a particular book you would like to translate?

There are quite a few books on the market today that I would love to translate, and I cannot imagine translating a book that I didn’t feel absolutely passionate about. I tend to focus on non-fiction, but I would quite enjoy the challenge of translating Elsberg’s Blackout, although it would be a mammoth task.

Selection of translated titles

  • Jennifer Teege, Nikola Sellmair: My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me. The Experiment, 2015 (UK edition: Hodder & Stoughton, 2015)
  • Ignaz Bing: Tales From My Life. Self-published, 2013