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Perhaps it was a tip by a reader on Amazon, could well be.

Because one does not find him there: the author was largely ignored and certainly neglected by established literary circles right from the start. His magnum opus was first published in and not to general acclaim.

In fact it never made it onto a bestseller list, though it has been a longseller, and has seen numerous reprints. Anyway, I was totally overwhelmed by this whimsical and irreverent work which is so unlike anything else that it is impossible to as it to a particular category. It is not exactly a memoir, nor is it a novel, or a travelogue.

And there can be no doubt that the author draws on his adventurous and colourful life that forced him and his Inca-Swiss wife Beatrice to take refuge in Mallorca, as they foresaw what was happening in Germany when others averted their eyes.

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They were as poor as mice, initially living in a rat-infested brothel with no roof, earning their meagre living as secretary, tourist guides, language and piano teachers, sometimes surviving on nothing but snails and cactus figs, and certainly always from hand to mouth, all the while encountering what adds up to an odd assortment of famous and not so famous people. Admittedly, it may take a bit of courage for the modern reader to get stuck into an strong tome with its -long paragraphs, the tapeworm sentences and the gigantic vocabulary, enriched with numerous ingenious neologisms, dialect words, including lexical items from old German, Swiss German, and Dutch.

Germans are sometimes thought of as devoid of humour — and of course, Thelen is as far away from your typical German as you might imagine, and he is certainly uniquely virtuous with the language — and therefore fiendishly difficult to translate. Which is why I started to wonder whether the book had actually been published in other languages. As it turned out, it had.

Why this book should win: "the island of second sight" by albert vigoleis thelen [btba ]

Translations existed in French and Spanish and Dutch. But however hard I looked, no of an English translation!

How could this be? But no, it had not been published. This was exciting news, and after some further investigation I managed to track down an e-mail address for Donald O. White, Prof.

Anthea bell

Much to my astonishment I had a response from him the following day. And would you believe it: Attached to the e-mail was a very large Wordperfect file of over I was speechless. I realized immediately that this was a truly masterful translation.

And I looked out for some of the particularly tricky passages. Yes, yes, incredible, an absolute jewel of a translation! I detected very few errors. And yet this masterful translation had been gathering dust in Prof. I found out later that he had made several attempts at getting it published but had failed.

The island of second sight

They all said it looked fascinating, but there was no interest in such a big fat tome, and it just did not fit into their current program. Not having a clue about the ins and outs of publishing I was starting to get very disheartened and frustrated. I was thinking of finding a way of publishing it myself, through Alpha.

But of course we are not a publishing house, and we did not have a printer, a distributor, etc. And the publisher who owns the rights in the German, Ullstein, would not sell the rights in the translation to anyone who is not a publishing house. The fact that the translation already existed and they did not have to pay for it did not seem to make the slightest difference!

Where is the logic in that?

Suddenly, I had an inspiration. I sent one chapter to a friend who runs an independent publishing company in Cambridge, Galileo Publishers, Robert Hyde. He happened to be on Mallorca for a holiday at the time which I did not know — and was immediately hooked. He urged me to send him the entire book … The rest, as they say, is history. Galileo published to book with a little help from Alpha, and later d it with a US publisher.

Interesting translations – the island of second sight, translated by donald o. white

Right now, Galileo is planning a third edition in the US with a new cover. But best of all:. In his translation, White gives us all this and more. He demonstrates a superb flair for comic timing and a seemingly unbounded linguistic inventiveness that by turns leaves us agog with admiration and has us convulsed in laughter. White to get the recognition he deserves.

And to all who have not read it, I can only say: You really should! By Isabelle Weiss. I was and still am delighted to have been the "midwife", bringing out into the light of day the English version of this landmark literary work of the mid-twentieth century and for Donald O. Share on facebook Facebook.

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Share on. Isabelle Weiss. Next Press Releases — a special challenge for translators?

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As in years past, we will be highlighting all 25 titles on the BTBA Fiction Longlist, one by one, building up to the announcement of the 10 finalists on April 10th.
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