Jozef van der Voort interned with NBG in spring 2020. Here he shares his experiences of the internship and his favourite titles from our latest crop of reviews.
What is your professional background?
I’m a freelance translator from German and Dutch with around 8 years’ experience; the bulk of my work to date has been in the field of general business and marketing communications, but over the last few years I’ve started working with publishers and have translated four novels to date. I’m also starting to work in the area of academic translation, having come second in this year’s GINT Non-Fiction Translation competition. And I’m the admin of Emerging Translators’ Network, a forum and support network for early-career literary translators working primarily into English with over 1,000 members.
How did you first hear about New Books in German?
I think every translator working from German has heard of NBG – it’s the number one resource for finding out about the latest great books that are coming out of the German-speaking world. But my first involvement with NBG was back in 2013 when I took part in the Emerging Translators programme and attended a workshop with Shaun Whiteside. That was a really memorable experience; I learned a lot and it was a definite boost to my career, so I felt an internship would be a great way to repay the favour!
What have you enjoyed most about your internship with New Books in German?
I’ve really enjoyed communicating with publishers and sitting in on the editorial meeting; it was fascinating to get an insight into what UK publishers look for and how the final shortlist of NBG titles gets selected. I’ve also loved getting to know the team – Sarah, Alyson and Sheridan have been really welcoming and supportive and I hope we can stay in touch.
What have you learned during the internship?
I joined the NBG team at a really exciting juncture as the organisation is currently moving from a primarily print publication to a solely online one. That meant I was lucky enough to attend the website planning meeting. UX design is a wholly new field for me so I learned an awful lot about the process of designing a new website.
I’ve also enjoyed working on my research project, for which I am looking at how NBG can get involved in the literary festival landscape. Again, this is unfamiliar territory for me, so it’s been fascinating to figure out how it all fits together. I was also given a lot of leeway to pick my topic and figure out what direction to take it in, which I really appreciated.
Do you have a favourite from the books the editorial committee selected and why?
My favourite titles were Picknick im Dunkeln by Markus Orths and Fieber: Universum Berlin by Peter Walther. The former because the fiction I most enjoy tends to be quirky, funny and thought-provoking; I like novels that offer an original perspective. And the latter because in recent years I’ve found myself reading much more non-fiction, and Walther offers a really pacy, characterful account of an era I was relatively unfamiliar with.
Who are your favourite German language authors?
Of the classics, I particularly enjoy Kafka and Schnitzler. Aside from the fact that they are brilliant writers, I also lived in Austria for a couple of years and it left me with an enduring interest in the latter days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. So it’s fascinating to see how the climate of the times was reflected in their fiction.
Which book would you most like to translate?
I’m not sure I could single out a title actually – the joy of translation is in the variety. It’s all about sussing out what each new author is trying to achieve and capturing their voice in a different language. Obviously that’s easier if you gel with the work in question, but even if you don’t especially, it’s still an interesting creative challenge. That said, I particularly relish translating humour. For my MA dissertation I produced an annotated translation of some articles by Max Goldt and I’d love to do more of those – though sadly I suspect he’s just too German to ever be picked up by an English-language publisher.