Spotlight on Literary Translators is a regular feature here at Intralingo. The aim of these interviews is to get the word out about our profession and the works we bring into other languages. The insight the interviewees provide is also sure to help all of us who are aspiring or established literary translators. Enjoy!
Spotlight on Literary Translator Julie Winter
LC: What language(s) and genres do you translate?
JW: I translate German fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
LC: How did you get started as a literary translator?
JW: While I was teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a colleague of mine, Ruth Schwertfeger, was translating memoirs and poetry written by women in Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp. She gave a talk about her work and read some of the poetry she had translated. Her readings moved me and many other audience members to tears; I can honestly say that this was a life-changing experience for me.
Later on, Ruth suggested that I translate a memoir she had come across written by a member of the German Resistance against Hitler, and she even gave me the contact information of a publisher who was interested in publishing such work. This was my first book: The Power of Solitude: My Life in the German Resistance by Marion Yorck von Wartenburg. I later translated two other similar memoirs: Memories of Kreisau by Freya von Moltke and In 1945 They Were Children by Alena Wagnerová.
LC: What do you love most and least about this work?
JW: What I love most is getting completely absorbed in a project and working hard to find the best possible translations of words, phrases, sentences. I like making the work sound like it was written in English, and I like the idea that my translation of a particular work makes it accessible to a wider audience.
It is difficult to be a literary translator because there is not a great deal of demand for our work. I hope this changes in the future.
LC: Can you tell us a little about a recent project?
JW: I recently did the authorized English translation of several songs written by Bettina Wegner, a singer-songwriter from the former East Berlin. She was a very popular performer in the 70s and 80s, and she still occasionally performs today. The songs were probably the most challenging thing I have ever translated because I wanted the lyrics to sound natural when sung in English. I had to pay attention to rhyme, rhythm and meter. It took a long time to get everything just right, but in the end I was quite happy with the result.
LC: Julie, you’ve brought some powerfully important works into English. Thank you for sharing!
Dear readers: Please leave any thoughts or questions for Julie Winter in a comment!
Julie Winter holds a PhD in German Literature from Northwestern University and is the translator of several volumes of memoirs from the World War II period, including Freya von Moltke’s Memories of Kreisau (The University of Nebraska Press, 2003). She lives, teaches and translates in Spokane, Washington.