New Books in German Internship – Interview with Angela Hirons

Translator Angela Hirons tells us about her work with New Books in German

What is your professional background?

I’ve been working as a freelance German-English translator and proofreader for the past 17 years and have been involved in copy-editing for V&Q Books on several titles since August 2020. Previously I’ve also worked as an in-house copy editor at an advertising/PR company, taught German in an adult learning context, and worked as a home tutor in A-level/GCSE German.

My translating background is primarily in clinical research and pharmaceuticals, while my academic background is in German literature/literary translation (MA in The Poetry of Sarah Kirsch, University of Liverpool, 2000; and MA in Translating, University of Salford, 2003) – it took me a while to align my translating interests with my work! After copy-editing the English translation of a German non-fiction book on synaesthesia in 2009, and later translating a book about the painters’ colonies on the Baltic Sea coast in 2016, I felt more certain that literary translation was an area I wanted to move into.

Taking part in the University of Warwick’s ‘Warwick Translates’ summer school in 2019 really set me on the road to learning more about the realities of literary translation and publishing. It also allowed me to meet literary translator and publisher, Katy Derbyshire, whose help, as well as willingness to raise up emerging literary translators has been invaluable.

How did you first hear about New Books in German?

I heard about NBG through Twitter. I thought the internship would be a good opportunity to ‘meet’ fellow emerging literary translators and improve my sense of connectedness in the world of literary translation.

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

I enjoyed having the opportunity to sit on the NBG jury and experience your book selection process, first-hand. I also enjoyed writing the book report on Terézia Mora’s literary memoir ‘Fleckenverlauf’, which I liked a lot despite my reservations about its potential appeal to a wider English-speaking audience.

Through the NBG research project, I’ve had the pleasure of communicating with literary translator and poet, Abigail Wender, on aspects of Iris Hanika’s ‘The Bureau of Past Management’ (V&Q Books, October 2021, translated by Abby and copy-edited by me). Her responses to my interview questions will be published on the NBG site soon.

What have you learned during the internship?

I’ve learned more about the world of publishing and literary translation and can appreciate the hard work NBG puts into facilitating the jury process, particularly when a high volume of books is submitted (as was the case this summer). When it comes to making the final recommendations for publication, I can see the importance of seeking several expert opinions and carefully weighing up market criteria, etc.

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

I’m currently reading Helga Schubert’s ‘Vom Aufstehen’ and enjoying it a lot. I also like the look of Judith Hermann’s Daheim, and ‘Junge mit schwarzem Hahn’ by Stefanie vor Schulte.

Who are your favourite German-language authors?

I’ve read a lot of Sarah Kirsch and would highly rate her writing. I tend to like the German Romantic writers and anything leaning towards the introspective, fairy tale-esque or existential. Thomas Bernhard and Kafka spring to mind. I also gravitate towards female authors, or books that deal with a woman’s take on things – Theodor Fontane’s ‘Effi Briest’, for example, or Irmgard Keun’s ‘Nach Mitternacht’.

Which book would you most like to translate?

Really anything that speaks to me or appeals directly – Sarah Kirsch, the current Helga Schubert book I’m reading… But beggars can’t be choosers! I’ll just concentrate on submitting small things to literary magazines for now and then take it from there.

Thanks Angela for all you contributed during your time with New Books in German! We enjoyed working with you and wish you all the best.

Read interviews with other former interns.

Read more about what a New Books in German internship involves.

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[book reviews will appear here…]