The following speech by Daniel Kehlmann was offered as a valediction to editor and translator Carol Brown Janeway upon her being awarded the inaugural $5,000 Friedrich Ulfers Prize as part of the Festival Neue Literatur.
Kehlmann is a bestselling German author, whose books Measuring the World and Fame were translated and published by Janeway
German author Daniel Kehlmann delivers a speech honoring Knopf executive and translator Carol Brown Janeway (seated, far right)
I'm just doing it because a) a German has to quote Goethe sometimes, and b) there is a hidden Goethe quote in every single book of mine, for no other reason that I want Carol Janeway
to locate it, which she
So I thought, if I give a speech about Carol
why not just get it out of the way right at the beginning.
Perhaps I should also add Carol hates Goethe.
Some of us, those who neither write nor work in publishing, might not know it: Carol Brown Janeway
is first and foremost a publisher.
translates for her
own - and our - pleasure.
translates on the side and for recreation, translating is how she
She was born and grew up in Edinburgh.
After graduating from Cambridge University she entered publishing, first working briefly in London as a literary agent before moving to New York.
For most of her
years in this city Carol
has worked for America's most prestigious publishing house.
She is a senior executive at Alfred A Knopf, with a particular focus on international literature.
Well, the truth is, in publishing she
is a legend, admired and sometimes also feared, but that's not the reason why we're here today.
We're here because of Carol Janeway, the translator.
Once a year in the summer, usually in August, Carol
withdraws to her
house at Hudson River and translates from French or German.
works from early in the morning to late in the evening.
And for those people who always want to know what kind of device writers use, she
does write in longhand.
translates because that's what she
likes to do, so nobody can force her
to translate something she
doesn't really like.
To be translated by Carol
is a privilege you can neither buy nor apply for, it just comes to you or it doesn't.
Also one of her
principle rules is that she
translates writers who are still alive and have at least some command of the English language, which makes it possible for them to read Carol's translation and work with her
on questions and details.
is not what people nowadays like to call an Academic translator.
Academic translating means, more or less, translating in order to make it sound bad.
I am not joking.
For quite a while now some of the more important University departments for translation have taught their students to stay as close to a text's original syntax as possible, in order to make the reader never forget that he
is reading a translation.
When it comes to translation theory, Carol
is a dilettante, she
is just incapable of understanding why it should be good for a writer to become unreadable in the process.
doesn't try to imitate French or German syntax, she
creates a voice, which is close to the author's original voice, but is an English version of it, something not equal, but equivalent.
When Carol is working on a translation she is actually a writer, who invents her own sentences alongside the writer's sentences, and sometimes I happened to wish I would have been able to invent some of the phrases she invented for me, or at least something as funny and sharp and elegant.
And, thankfully, Carol
wrote to me that she
liked the book and would also consider translating it herself, were it not for the Internet nerd chapter.
"There's just," she
said, "no way to do it in English.
That's right, I thought, and replied right away: "No, absolutely not, it's actually quite easy, we'll find a way, I am sure.
Thank God I was able to con her
into believing me.
And so she
started translating and by the time she
reached that chapter, which comes quite at the end, it was too late to turn around.
So in the hot summer of 2009 she
spent a hellish week in her
house on the Hudson, only interrupting work to fire off scary e-mails to me, and when the leaves started to fall she
came back with something incredible: a story full of her
own sentences, her
own ideas and jokes exactly in the places where I had put jokes that proved untranslatable.
"Well, you see", I said.
"I told you it was easy!"
So obviously I have many reasons to be grateful to Carol
I am beyond grateful that she
decided to publish my books in the US and that she
chose to translate them herself - a fantastic privilege.
But I am also grateful for her
friendship and her
continuous presence in my life.
I am grateful for our ongoing conversation, which has by now stretched over seven years and I am sure more than a thousand e-mails, some of them quite short, some just a line or a single word, but each of them has made my life funnier, brighter, more joyful.
I am also grateful for all the plays we went to see together, who had the effect of rekindling my love for theatre and inspired me to try my hand at writing for the stage myself - which Carol reacted to by deciding to translate my first play, without being commissioned by anybody, just out of interest and solidarity and friendship.
And of course I am grateful for the education I received from her
about the weird business we find ourselves in.
I can safely say that I learned more from Carol
about the mechanics of the publishing world than I would have gotten out of all the books ever written on the topic.
And I am grateful for her
readiness to do unexpected and slightly surreal things - like turning up at the strangest literary festival ever, surrounded by geysers, desperate writers and weird finger-food, or travelling all the way to my first theatre-premiere in what proved likely to be Europe's only city without a single bar.
But above all I cannot even begin to express the amount of my gratitude, of our gratitude - I am sure I can speak for all the writers who have been translated by her
, like Bernhard Schlink, Hans-Ulrich Treichel, Margriet de Moor, Yasmina Reza and Thomas Bernhard … well, maybe not Thomas Bernhard, gratitude wasn't something he
might have been very interested in. So I cannot even begin to express the amount of gratitude I feel for her
turning my books into her
books, making them our books.
To receive her
friendship without getting the assistance of her
talent would be a lot, as would be to get the assistance of her
talent without her
But to have gotten both is something I count among the great gifts of my life.
Thank you so much, Carol