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QC student introduces German novel to English readers

TimesLedger Newspapers

Getting published is no easy feat: It can take months, years even. So it came as a huge surprise to Queens College graduate student Anne Posten when she was told that her English translation of German writer Tankred Dorst’s “Der Schöne Ort” (“This Beautiful Place”) was being published by Hang Loose Press, a year before even completing her master’s of fine arts at the college.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said 25-year-old Posten. Since first reading the novella in a German literature course as an undergraduate at Oberlin College, where she majored in German, she fell in love with it. “The style was unusual, unlike anything I read before,” said Posten. “I wanted to share it with my friends and I couldn’t because it was in German so I became motivated to translate it to English so that I could share it with them.”

Posten began working on the translation for the book her senior year at Oberlin College in Ohio.

After graduating from Oberlin, Posten enrolled in Queens College for its graduate program in translation. Posten said she sought out the program because it was one of only two or three in the country that taught translation as a writing program. The other programs focused on translation theory or comparative literature. She received encouragement from some of the program’s faculty.

“It was (Queens College professor) Kimko Hahm’s idea to collaborate with Hang Loose; she pushed for this to happen,” said Posten, who cited three professors as being particularly helpful. “Susan Bernofsky and Roger Sedarat have been really important to me.”

Posten’s translation is the first translation of a novel published by Queens College, so it is a first not only for Posten but for the school as well. “I think its a wonderful thing the college is doing,” she said.

Upon hearing that her translation of “Der Schöne Ort” was being published, Posten’s former professor, Thomas Wild, who happened to be a friend of the book’s author, Tankred Dorst, got Posten in touch with Dorst. Dorst ended up cutting a trip in Moscow short so that he could meet with Posten in Germany and the two discussed the short novel over coffee.

“Der Schöne Ort” is a collection of several intersecting short stories with three main story lines. One of the stories involves a young girl who travels to Spain because she believes her father is the king of Spain, another young woman tries to escape her controlling mother and an addled sculptor encounters ailments and many obstacles that hinder him from completing his sculpture, which everyone in his community is convinced he won’t finish.

“It’s (the novel) about persistence …. The characters encounter a lot of depressing situations, but ultimately it’s very hopeful,” said Posten.

Posten is currently working on another translation for a book by Swiss author Peter Weber and she looks forward to translating other works as well. “I find it really inspiring to be part of the translator community,” said Posten.

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