Sunday, August 07, 2005


Lost and Found in Translation

Newsweek has a neat literary find, and... ok, stop laughing. Seriously, Newsweek actually covered a book that nobody else has. A book from a vanity press, no less. And... will you please stop rolling your eyes?

No, I cannot explain what possessed them to do this, but I was pleased to see that Newsweek's website has a geniune and genuinely obscure literary discovery this week. It's an interview with Robert S. Carter, a 89-year-old translator of A Roumanian Diary, by Hans Carossa. It's the forgotten diary of a WWI German medic:

This was a little book in German, which was part of my required reading when I was in school, and for some reason I liked it so much, I’ve kept it all these years … I was at Harvard and I majored in modern languages, primarily in German … As I got into my 88th year, I decided I ought to do something to exercise my mind. And what I decided to do is to translate this book into English....

I sometimes say I was in the trenches of World War I, because when I was 5 years old, the war was just over. I was in France, and I was taken out to the battlefield, and it was still a scene of utter devastation … Our instructions were “Don’t pick up anything; it might explode,” and, “You can’t go in the dugout; they still are full of gas.” I’ve had this little exposure, so I think of WWI as part of my life, even though it really was not.

Now, there are a couple bizarre omissions in the reporting for this article. First, it doesn't note that there was already an English translation of the book which Knopf published in 1930. Stranger still, Newsweek doesn't tell you where you can buy the new translation. This is no small matter, because it's not listed on Amazon, BN, Powell's, or... anywhere. Nor can I find a website for publisher Regina Books.

Oh Newsweek, you incompetent tease.

So you'll just have settle for buying the old edition at abebooks or eBay, I guess. And that's too bad, because Carter sounds like a pretty interesting guy: among other things, he and his wife discovered the submerged Roman seaport of Aperlae off the coast of Turkey in 1969. But he's slowing down a little now. When Newsweek asked him if he had any other translations in the works, he responded: "No, I’m finished with that. I am now a few weeks short of being 90 years old, so that’s the end of it."

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?