Last year I published my novel “Oktober Heat” in English, but my family and friends in Germany protested that they couldn’t read it. They urged me to translate my book into German. Still, my small circle of friends is not enough reason for such an undertaking. I researched the market share of mysteries and historical fiction in Germany and learned that it is fairly large. Finally, I decided to tackle the big job of translating the book myself. After all, I wanted to become a translator when I finished high school, but the job market was glutted with unemployed translators and interpreters at that time.
Now I have a chance to live my teenage dream. It is not my first translation. I translated a thesis for a local museum years ago, a tedious job indeed. Translating a novel, however, is not as easy as it seems. What sounds elegant in English sounds clumsy in German. I am currently on my first round of revisions in which I am ignoring the English version. One of the problems I am encountering is that German words are long, much longer than their English counterparts. That wouldn’t be much of a problem for an eBook, but it is definitely a problem for a paperback where each page costs me money. If I want to make the book affordable for readers I’ll have to either hyphenate long words or cut some content.
The biggest hurdle, however, is the fact that I immigrated to the U.S. before Germany introduced a reform of the German language (Rechtschreibreform). Now my native tongue sounds and looks foreign to me. I am especially puzzled when English words get mangled (ladys, seriously?).
And don’t get me started on the use of “ss” and “ß”! Clearly, this is a job for a copy editor.
Will I ever delve into another translation on this scale? Not anytime soon because I will be busy working on several new publishing projects.
Image: commons.wikimedia.org (Author: Michael Maggs)