Litjuice Occupation: Translated Dörthe Binkerts She Wore Only White into Weit übers Meer
Based In: Steamboat Springs, CO
Education: BA in German and Political Science with some graduate work in German for International Business
Favorite Read: That’s a tough one because I’ve rarely met a book I didn’t like and I always finish reading what I start.
Were you always taken by the German language?
Yes. My grandparents were German, but my parents never learned it, which I always thought was a shame. I jumped at the first opportunity to take it in school.
Making the transition from curious German speaker to literary translator came easy to you?
I began my career translating a lot of business documents and didn’t completely transfer to literary translation until ten years ago when I received permission to translate two German authors and market my translations to American publishers. It’s a very tough business to break into and I got used to receiving letters of rejection.
Do you have to be taken by a manuscript in order to translate it?
It definitely helps because once you’re committed to translate a manuscript, it consumes you until you’re finished.
Say, you’re approached by a publisher or an independent author about translating a work. And then, what happens?
Depending on the timeframe, I try to read the entire manuscript before I start translating, but that’s not always possible. At the end of every workday, I reread what I’ve translated, highlighting rough spots and areas I’m not happy with or need to research more. Every few chapters I’ll read my translation aloud and edit what I’ve translated again, trying to clean up the rough spots. After I’ve finished translating the entire manuscript, I try to let it sit for a few days before I reread it one last time and then send it off for professional editing.
How can an author go about choosing a suitable translator for a work?
An excellent way to find a suitable translator is for an author to read translations in her genre to find one that she likes. Opening up a dialogue with that translator then will give them both an idea of whether or not they’ll be a good fit. I always offer to do a short translation from the manuscript which will give the author an indication of whether the translator can capture her style and it will give the translator a chance to become more familiar with the author’s style.
The German market is very vibrant right now with both established authors and exciting new authors in all genres. There are so many great new books out there now and there is never enough time to read them all. It’s really disappointing though because with all of the good German books, not very many American readers will ever be able to enjoy them since only 3% of all books published in the US are books in translation.
What have you learned as a translator that you feel would be helpful for aspiring translator to know?
Perseverance is the key. I have received hundreds of rejection letters over the years, but I never gave up and it eventually paid off. The other key is to try to work with projects you enjoy because you will be spending a lot of time with a manuscript before you are finished with the translation.
Would you say that translating slang is the most challenging part of a translator’s work?
Translating slang and translating dialect are both equally difficult. Sometimes they don’t work in our culture and you need to be able to be creative about conveying the same intent as the author.
What’s next for you?
Right now I’m working on the first book in a trilogy. We’re just beginning the process, so it’s very exciting.