Arabella Spencer

Arabella Spencer © Arabella Spencer Arabella Spencer studied German and Philosophy at King’s College London and Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia, and also holds a degree in Politics, Philosophy and History from Birkbeck, University of London.

She has worked in the fashion industry, in banking, and as a freelance translator. She has lived in Munich, Seville and currently lives in London. ‘Who is Martha’ by Marjana Gaponenko (New Vessel Press) published in 2014 is her first published translation of a novel.


Three questions to Arabella Spencer

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

I have always loved books. When I lived in Munich and worked in the fashion industry I used to frequent Hugendubel during my lunchbreaks and increasingly found that I was struggling to tear myself away from all the wonderful works and editions of German literature that the bookshop had to offer and go back to my day job. I rarely managed to leave the bookshop without a purchase and would spend many hours reading at night and slowly my bookshelves began to fill. It was discovering Thomas Bernhard’s works that made me want to translate. I decided to study German and literary translation with the express hope that I would one day get to translate a novel.
Which German book do you like the best and why?

It’s actually quite impossible to say which German book I like the best, so I am going to choose three. Auslöschung by Thomas Bernhard, because when I first read it in my early twenties, it made a big impression on me. I was captured by its exploration of human nature, identity, and the way Murnau the main protagonist makes sense of the world. I found the novel both provocative and thought provoking. Die Schlafwandler by Herman Broch is also one of my favourites, with its fusion of literature, philosophy and politics. And, Als wir träumten by Clemens Meyer for the natural ease with which the words seems to flow from his pen.
Is there a particular book you would like to translate?

Something by Thomas Bernhard one day. A play. A work of philosophy. I also loved working on Who is Martha? because of Marjana’s wonderful imagination, humour and evident love of the German language, so I would very much like to translate her next novel.

Selection of translated titles

  • Gaponenko, Marjana: Who is Martha? (Wer ist Martha?). New Vessel Press, 2014.