I’ve been translating from German into English since the late 1970s – and I love it! I spend months at a time, sometimes even more than a year, writing a novel or working on a screenplay. Translating between projects is a great change of pace, a breath of fresh air, a needed change. I appreciate that the story, the plot, the text is already there – the “only” thing I need to do is translate it into eloquent and precise English, faithful in spirit to the original. I’ve translated all sorts of material: PR texts, literature, songs, interviews, screenplays, art catalogs, news, documentaries, subtitles, and once even an eviction notice! Below are a selected few examples.
As a music journalist (1975-1988), I knew many people in the music business. Conny Konsack, who ran the legendary concert hall at Kant Kino in the 1980s and was also the manager of several rock groups, introduced me to the band Ideal, one of the most successful rock bands of the new German wave. They were planning on producing two of their songs in English and Conny asked me to adapt the lyrics to one of them, “Monotony.” It was a fun job! I would have loved more work like that. Is there anyone around who needs someone to write lyrics in English? Just give me a call. Here are my contacts. Hahah.
I and my colleague Stephen Locke worked together translating Michael Ruetz’s photo book Time Unveiled. Ruetz is one of his generation’s greatest photographers. It was such a pleasure translating the book. Every single photo moved me deeply.
In the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the discovery of the dark subterranean world under the surface of Berlin’s streets received a lot of attention. In particular, I found East Berlin’s ghost stations – disused stations in the East that West Berlin subway trains rode through but never stopped at – especially fascinating. Work on the book Ghost Stations by publisher Christoph Links sparked my imagination, so much so, in fact, that I was inspired to integrate ghost stations into my novella Wallflower which takes place just two weeks after the fall of the Wall. More about Wallflower here.
Work on the translation to Ode to Joy and Freedom, a 60-minute television documentary by Beate Schubert with a historical review of the events leading up to the fall of the Wall, as well as with excerpts from the benefit concert with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein, Christmas 1989, was admittedly not quite as intoxicating as the fall of the Wall itself, but nonetheless quite gripping.
Jochen Kuhn is an all-round artist. He paints, draws, writes, directs and designs the sound for his award-winning shorts, each of the animated films a jewel sparkling with wisdom, poetry and gentle humor. It was an honor to adapt the words of seven Kuhn short films into English for the full-length film Painting in Motion (2018). I was also responsible for directing the voice-overs, voiced by Eric Hansen. Above is the English version of Always Tired.
* Click to enlarge.