Paul Auster: Goose Bumps in Vienna

We are voracious readers of fiction in four languages, amateur self-appointed literature critics, and literature bloggers. We generally do not translate fiction, as translating serious literature is an enormous and complex task that is unfortunately mostly not very well paid. Our hats are off to our extremely talented literary translation colleagues. Thank you, translator Wibke Kuhn, for making Stieg Larsson’s fantastic Swedish-language books accessible to us in German (now available in English on Amazon).

We really like Paul Auster, the American novelist, and were thrilled to hear that he would be in Vienna to give a much-anticipated (and very well attended) reading from his new book “Man in the Dark.” The event’s organizer, a prominent figure in the Austrian literary scene, asked us to translate his German introduction speech for Mr. Auster into English. Here’s an excerpt from the text:

Via Paul Auster’s books I thus entered an eerie but incredibly attractive world of gamblers and compulsive gamblers, which closely resembles film noir, in which oftentimes chance also plays God and lets people stumble into inhumane destinies so they will finally understand that there is no God – unless they could recognize Dashiell Hammett as their creator, which of course comes with a kafkaesque Moebius strip.

This line is made for Vegas:
But not even the fractional disorder systems which were subject of such high praise during the heyday of the chaos theory helped my Auster heroes win in the gambling joints of their existence, because regardless of how cool of a player you are: strategy without luck is no good.

The reading was yesterday, October 1, at the venerable Ronacher theater in Vienna. Dagy was, of course, there (Judy wasn’t, due to a long commute from Vegas), and, for the very first time, heard one of our texts read by a professionally trained speaker (a native English speaker, thankfully) in front of 1,000 people. It gave her goose bumps, and we were pretty proud of our little project. After all, we don’t get to hear our translations read out aloud on a stage very often. Paul Auster might not know us, but we now know a bit more about Paul Auster. There is some more information on the novelist's reading on Dagy's German-language blog.


Thomas Gruber on October 3, 2008 at 4:15 AM said...

The translation of the introduction speech for Paul "Oyster" was a great peace of work! You rock!

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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