Working with New Books in German – interview with intern Helen Nurse

Translator and teacher Helen talks to NBG about her time working with us

What is your professional background?

Following my German degree, I moved to Düsseldorf to work as a translator 30 years ago, spending 13 years happily immersed in life there. After working as an in-house translator at Düsseldorf University, Krupp and VDI, I worked freelance in academic and commercial translation for many years. I also taught commercial translation at the FH in Köln and at the VHS. I then retrained to become an MFL teacher in the UK, continuing to translate alongside teaching. I have been teaching a wide range of German literature to German native speakers for the International Baccalaureate, allowing me to indulge my passion for poetry and books, and prompting me to actively pursue working in literary translation.

How did you first hear about New Books in German?

I stumbled across NBG several years ago by accident when I was researching something for a translation. It was wonderful to find a site dedicated to my two loves, German and books, and I have since discovered so many new authors thanks to NBG!

What have you enjoyed most about your internship with New Books in German?

I loved going up to London to the Goethe-Institut to meet Sarah, Annemarie (Goodridge, from the Goethe-Institut London) and the other jury members. It was such a pleasure to chat about books in the pub afterwards too. Sarah is great to work with and I was able to fit all my tasks flexibly around a demanding day job. The jury meetings were fascinating, and I learnt so much by listening to publishers, agents, booksellers and translators discussing titles and explaining their reasoning for supporting particular books. The care and dedication that goes into getting the decisions right is immense. Working on the publisher statistics and spotting trends in submissions was also fascinating.

What have you learned during the internship?

I have learned a lot about the publishing process and feel I have a much better overview of what is happening on the German-speaking book markets. The thing that surprised me most was how long it takes for a book to be published once the manuscript is ready – compared to teaching the publishing world moves at a glacial place. On a recent trip to Düsseldorf, it was such a delight to see all of the titles selected by NBG on the bestseller tables in my favourite bookshop – up until then I had only seen the titles as draft pdfs – so it was wonderful to see them out in the world.

Do you have a favourite from the books the jury selected and why?

I feel very fond of all the titles from the Spring 2022 round as I spent so much time with all of them, even the books that did not get selected in the end. I am particularly drawn toward the clear, calm writing of Yael Inokai’s Ein simpler Eingriff. I am also looking forward to reading Nastjas Tränen by Natascha Wodin.

Which book would you most like to translate?

Well now … there’s a question! I always enjoy quiet, thoughtful books but can also be found tucked up with European crime fiction. All my favourite authors – Robert Seethaler, Judith Hermann, Bernhard Schlink, Saša Stanišic – have already been very ably translated by others. Somewhere out there is a book with my name on it!

Thanks Helen for all of your work, dedication, ideas and input. We will miss working with you!

To find out more about Helen, take a look at her website or follow her on Twitter.

You can find out more about our internships here .

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