… my own first published translation.
For my MA dissertation, I chose to write an annotated translation of Die Verräterin by Gudrun Pausewang and I was lucky enough to find a publisher, at Andersen Press, for whom the story resonated with his own experience. Traitor was published in 2004.
It’s the story of Anna, a teenage girl living in the Sudetenland at the end of the Second World War. Although this area is now in the Czech Republic, she and her family are German. Anna is fairly ambivalent towards the Nazi regime, but her older brother is fighting in the German army while her younger brother, Felix, is a passionate member of the Hitler Youth. When she meets an escaped Russian prisoner of war, instead of doing her duty and reporting him to the authorities, she helps him – finding him a safe hiding place, bringing him food and clothes. Anna hopes that he will soon escape over the Czech border. As her relationship with Maxim deepens, Anna finds herself questioning more and more about the society around her and becoming much more politically aware.
Pausewang herself lived through this era, in this area, until she and her family were forced to flee from the advancing Russians in 1945. As a girl she was as fanatically pro-Hitler as Felix, yet she became a pacifist and vehemently opposed to war and injustice – her changing views can be seen represented by Anna, her family and friends.
I was particularly keen to translate the book because it presents young readers with a different angle on the Second World War and shows that not all Germans were Nazis. As the fascination with the Third Reich shows no sign of waning, it is good to get this message across. At the same time, negative stereotypes of Germany came about for a reason and I also wanted to challenge any ideas that “This couldn’t happen here”. Anna’s dilemma shows that nobody can ever know how they will react in any given situation. It challenges the reader to wonder what they would have done and flags the importance of individual responsibility. I’m pleased to see from various reader reviews on Amazon, goodreads.com and elsewhere, that other people have responded to the book as I hoped they would.
And, if you’ll pardon my blowing my own trumpet a little, who wouldn’t be pleased with a review like this?