Interview with Recent NBG Intern, Dina Khadum

What is your professional background?

As a recent graduate, my work experience has been limited to summer internships and volunteering roles alongside my studies. Translating at university piqued my interest in professional translation and inspired me to intern at a translation firm in Berlin, where I was sadly charged with more bureaucratic texts than exciting literary ones! Since then, I’ve been exploring my options in bridging the gap between Germany and the Middle East — speaking both Arabic and German has proved a real help in my roles interpreting for refugee legal aid organisations, translating help resources, and developing curricula for language learning.

How did you first hear about New Books in German?

I heard about NBG through the Goethe-Institut’s Twitter account, and often used it to discover new German-language book releases. As a keen student of German literature, it was a great way to stay up to date with emerging authors and trends in the German-language literary world.

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

Since my experience with books has been solely restricted to the consumer side of things, it was enlightening to find out what goes on on the other side. The editorial meeting was for sure my favourite part, hearing how different experts in the field talk about novels and weigh up their cultural importance in line with current trends. Due to COVID I wasn’t able to actually meet any of the team, but it was such a pleasure to work with them virtually — and for that I have to thank Zoom! 

What have you learned during the internship?

Besides the steep learning curve that came with handling hefty Excel spreadsheets, the internship offered me a fascinating insight into the publishing industry and the important collaboration between various cultural institutions. I had never quite realised that process that went into commissioning books for translation and the sort of criteria which was looked at when considering a commission, so that was great to learn.

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

Aufprall by Heinz Bude, Karin Wieland and Bettina Munk was definitely the most appealing of all the novels for me, and the one I chose to do the reader report. Given my great interest in Berlin’s culture and literature, with its nightlife and ‘dark underbelly’ being a particular focus, it was a really fascinating look into the origins of the anarchist scene of the 80s. 

Who are your favourite German-language authors? 

I have always found Wladimir Kaminer’s novels amusing and clever, hitting the intersection of my interests in Berlin novels and writing of authors with migration backgrounds. His pithy comments on life as a foreign-born citizen in Germany are nothing less than entertaining, and I very much enjoy how he intertwines these comments with historical narrative. And of course I could not talk about my favourite German language authors without a massive nod to Goethe, whose Die Leiden des jungen Werther was essentially the reason that I studied to German at university. 

Which book would you most like to translate?

Reading Christian Kracht’s Faserland earlier this year, I was so impressed with its literary style and rich historical references. I was astonished to find out that it has not been translated into English in the fifteen years since its publication, especially given its reputation as a seminal work of pop literature. I’d so love the challenge of integrating the German cultural nuances into the English translation, although I suspect it would be a mighty task indeed!

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