Translators sometimes struggle with also becoming editors. Maybe the prose in an original document isn’t quite right. In translation, we could fix that. But in doing so, we change the author’s voice. For some clients, this may not matter. For instance, if a translator found a way to express something in an instruction manual more clearly, it’s unlikely to be a problem. But what about more literary or personal writing?
Holocaust survivor Dr. Eddy de Wind ’s memoir, Last Stop Auschwitz, was written immediately after the war. De Wind had volunteered to stay at the liberated camp to help treat fellow survivors who were too ill, weak, or wounded to leave. Every night, he would write down the horrors he had lived through as recently as just weeks before.
Major publishers suggested editing and polishing his words, but de Wind insisted that he wanted to retain that rawness and immediacy of what he had experienced. Translating his book from the original Dutch into English decades later, David Colmer always kept this in mind.
Read on to learn more about the experience of translating a document that brings history to life, and how far a translator had to go for some fact-checking, even so.