Sunday, 14 August 2011

I am in Germany

Or rather my debut novel, Pariah, is in Germany. Or rather, Ausgestossen, as it has been titled over there, is now officially available, and has been since the start of the month.

It's a curious thing, being published in a foreign land. I still haven't held a copy of the German edition in my hands, and I wouldn't be able to read it if I did. (I was actually pretty good at German at school, but that was more years ago than I care to remember).

It's probably a good thing that I can't read it. It must be incredibly difficult to translate any novel, but one which contains a lot of slang and local dialect must be doubly difficult. For example, I often have characters say 'I wanna' rather than 'I want to', because it gives more of the flavour of New York speech. But is there an equivalent for that in German? Or in other languages for that matter? What about 'diddly-squat'? Or 'shit-for-brains' ? Can one translate those things and still retain authenticity? I worry, therefore, that if I were able to translate the novel back into English, I would discover that it bore little resemblance to the original.

But perhaps that doesn't matter. English-language novels and films get translated into other languages all the time, and generally you don't hear complaints about it. Clearly, though, there must be good translators and not-so-good translators. Fortunately, the German translator for Pariah is one of the excellent ones. Her name is Tanja Handels. I have never met her, never even corresponded with her, but I have heard great things about her work. She has translated works by Zadie Smith, Ann Cleeves, PJ Tracy and John Grisham, to name just a few. I also have a top-notch German publishing company. Rowohlt have published authors such as Kingsley Amis, Michael Crichton, PD James, Albert Camus, and Roald Dahl, so I feel honoured to be on their lists.

There is really only one way to discover how effectively Pariah translates, and that this is to see what the readers think. My first German review appeared recently, and you can see a roughly translated version here. As you'll see, the reviewer gives it a thumbs-up, awarding it 10 out of 10 'bookworms'. One thing I particularly liked about it is that the reviewer has me pegged as an American author! Even if the novel loses something in the translation, it's nice to know that it has some authenticity about it beforehand.


  1. Congrats on the German edition. I can understand how translating a novel to another language can be difficult. Especially when there's a lot of slang involved that might not translate well.

    I'm glad to see you got a good review, despite all that. May there be many more.


  2. Thanks, Misha. And good luck in your own writing!