Having just returned from a month in Berlin, my feet haven’t yet hit the ground. I’ve just taken up residence at my latest house-sit, with the vast Hyde Park as my back garden, and tomorrow I’ll be diving into a week of tutoring at Birkbeck’s translation summer school, Use Your Language, Use Your English. I’ve selected some interesting but challenging texts, and hopefully the students will agree…! I’ll be teaching the Academic German course, while fellow translator Shaun Whiteside will be taking Literary German. On Wednesday, the two of us will be squaring up to each other in a translation duel, debating our respective renderings of an extract from the classic Swiss text, Heidi. So it’s a week of both competition and collaboration, as our co-translation of Florian Illies’ 1913 was published on Thursday by The Clerkenwell Press as 1913: The Year Before the Storm. It was a pleasure to work together on it, and I’m very proud to be its co-translator.

Image from Waterstones

Image from Waterstones

It’s already been getting some great reviews, and excitingly it will be Radio Four’s Book of the Week from tomorrow morning. A review on Saturday in the Observer called it ”an absolute gem of a book”: ”Grand epoch-defining moments like the May premiere of The Rite of Spring are juxtaposed with minor, mundane details about a coffee between friends, but Illies’s genius turn of phrase, beautifully retained by Shaun Whiteside and Jamie Lee Searle’s elegant translation, can be found throughout.” And today, this was followed by a review in the Irish Times Culture section, which declared it to be ”the best possible holiday read.” So if the Great British public would be sure to pack a copy each before heading off on holiday, we’d be much obliged!

As I head off to read through tomorrow’s texts, I’ll finish with another quote from the Irish Times: ”It is a great story in a wonderfully idiosyncratic book, alive with funny, strange, unexpected yarns concerning sexual and artistic angst, ego, rivalries, uncertainty and change in what truly was a frenetic lull before the cataclysm that began in Sarajevo with the assassination of the unpopular heir to the doomed Austro-Hungarian empire.”


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