Frankfurt Book Fair/Frankfurter Buchmesse

I went to the Buchmesse yesterday. I hadn’t been for three years. I spoke to two publishers, briefly. But mainly I go to look at the books, not to chat up publishers.

Via Mobile:

It seemed less fun than last time. I was also quite disoriented. Last time, I remember taking little buses everywhere. They must have gone to the main entrances. On foot (the Via Mobile doesn’t go everywhere), it can be very wearing to walk all over a hall looking for the right exit. This is despite looking at the map online the night before.


This is probably a translator in action:

Previously, I made a longer list of publishers beforehand. I would go and see small presses like Ten Speed Press or various international law publishers – as a reader and book buyer, not as a translator. Now, I suspect many presses weren’t even there, and although I took quite a few catalogues, there was nothing like the superabundance of yore. Probably the financial crisis has had its effect.

I had been reading Chinese novels and thinking of brushing up my Chinese, but I did not see any English-language publishers with Chinese books (there may have been some). There were some German translations around. The tent features mainly Chinese minorities, doing calligraphy, painting, embroidery, making puppets and so on – all a bit demonstratively non-political.

For the Book Fair, translators means literary translators. The translators’ centre, which I saw when it began, have become a firm fixture. I heard Norma Kessler and Babette Schrooten talking on the topic of Wie kommt man als Übersetzer zu einem Spezialgebiet? – How does a translator find a special subject? They were talking about their position after training as translators. Babette had worked in a medical occupation for fourteen years and had done a lot of horse riding, and Norma (after failing to get a translation from Diogenes – I get the impression universities give their translation students the idea they can make a living as literary translators – and they haven’t even studied literature – rant off) went into architecture, her husband being an architect. It is always interesting to me to hear other translators talking about their lives. It also indicates that translation students (of both sexes) should consider well who they get married too.

At the BDÜ I was glad to meet – if briefly – another translation blogger, Fabio Said of fidus interpres. He was only there for the day too and had travelled as long as I had, but got up earlier.

Translators’ centre: translators who have won prizes:

Margaret Atwood on the blue sofa (irritating interviewer):

LATER NOTE: Fabio has blogged the Buchmesse now, and he also has a video giving an impression of his day there.

And here’s another impression of mine – hot dogs being warmed up at the left.

Herta Müller

I was pleased but surprised that Herta Müller got the Nobel Prize for Literature.

I read a few of her stories and two novels while she was still in Romania (till 1987) and have meant to come back to them. What she writes is rightly described as poetic, but it’s easier going than Elfriede Jelinek and I should think quite translatable.

In particular I remember a story called Das Schwäbische Bad, about a whole family one after the other using the same bathwater. Apparently this story was not well received by a number of Banat Swabians.

Extract in English from Everything I Own I Carry With Me (Atemschaukel), tranlated by Donal McLaughlin.

The war was still on in January 1945. Shocked that, in the depths of winter, I was to be taken who-knows-where by the Russians, everyone wanted to give me something that would be useful, maybe, even if it didn’t help. Because nothing on earth could help. It was irrevocable: I was on the Russians’ list, so everyone gave me something – and drew their own conclusions as they did. I took the things and, at the age of seventeen, drew my own conclusion: the timing was right for going away. I could have done without the list being the reason, but if things didn’t turn out too badly, it would even be good for me. I wanted away from this thimble of a town, where all the stones had eyes. I wasn’t so much afraid as secretly impatient. And I had a bad conscience because the list that caused my relatives such anguish was, for me, tolerable. They feared that in another country something might happen to me. I wanted to go to a place that did not know me.

In Romania, there are two big groups of Germans: the Transylvanian Saxons (Siebenbürger Sachsen) and the Banat Swabians (Banater Schwaben). Herta Müller is one of the latter. Previously the most famous was Johnny Weissmüller. This map is from Wikimedia Commons and relates to the year 1945. Some Romanian Germans succeeded in avoiding deportation by emigrating at that time:

For most of WWII, Romania was on the German side, but in 1944 it joined the Allies. As far as I know, the Romanian Germans stayed loyal to Hitler. From 1945 on, all men between 17 and 45 and women between 18 and 30, with a few exceptions, were sent to labour camps in the Soviet Union for years.

The deportation order applied to all men between the ages of 17 and 45 and women between 18 and 30. Only pregnant women, women with children less than a year old and persons unable to work were excluded.

Here’s an English page with a lot of links (the Literary Saloon, via The Elegant Variation)

Extracts from The Land of Green Plums, translated by Michael Hofmann (original title: Herztier).

Expulsion of Germans from Romania after World War II

If you can’t get Herta Müller books at the moment, you can read her husband, Richard Wagner, in German.

Termium free online/Kanadische Terminologiedatenbank kostenlos online

Termium Plus, the Canadian database (French, English and Spanish) is now free online.

I believe it is useful for the English alone (the default setting on the site is to look up French terms). It has such a full set of definitions and examples that it should help translators between German and English too. It has been (rightly) expensive on CD so I have never become familiar with it.

(I’m trying to read Infinite Jest, so when I see a Canadian site I keep thinking about terrorists in wheelchairs, I’m afraid).

Here’s one description to make up for my ignorance (it refers to charges, which have now gone).

Federal Court of Justice on translators’ fees/Bundesgerichtshof zu Erfolgshonoraren für Übersetzer

The German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) has pronounced judgment in a case relating to a literary translator’s fee. It has sent the case back for retrial, so the decision in this specific case is outstanding, but in principle it supports the plaintiff.

The BGH press release in German is available at the court site and is reprinted in the Börsenblatt. In buchreport there was an article on the background.

The translator in question translated two novels from English into German in 2001 (the German Copyright Act was changed in 2002). She was paid the fifteen euros per page customary in the business at that time. She assigned all her rights of use to the publisher – in Germany, you can’t assign copyright, but you can assign the rights of use of the copyright, which boils down to the same thing here. She therefore did not share in the profits.

The court held that in principle the plaintiff can require the publisher agree to alter her contract. At the time it was entered into, it was customary for fifteen euros per page to be paid. But the intention of the Act was that a translator should have a reasonable share in the profits made on every business use of the translation (presumably this is wider than just print media), for at that time it could not be foreseen that for the period of copyright – until seventy years after the plaintiff’s death – there would be so little profit that fifteen euros a page was a reasonable payment.

Legal entity/Legaleinheit

I wrote about legal entity earlier.

Now Professor Noack of Unternehmensrechtliche Notizen points out that the term Legaleinheit is creeping into German.

Google nennt immerhin ca. 1 600 Treffer, der Duden kennt das Wort noch nicht, ebensowenig die juristischen Lehrbücher. Mir ist der Begriff auch erst so richtig aufgefallen, als ich die Einladung zur außerordentlichen HV der Deutschen Telekom AG las: “Zur Steigerung der Wettbewerbsfähigkeit sollen T-HOME und T-MOBILE in Deutschland in einer Legaleinheit zusammengeführt werden.” Dann wird erläutert, dass Vermögen im Wege der Ausgliederung auf eine GmbH übertragen werden soll.

(There are c. 1,600 ghits; term is not in Duden or German law textbooks. In an invitation to an extrarodinary general meeting of Deutsche Telekom, it is used to refer to a GmbH after a merger).

It seems to me that they could often use Gesellschaft to refer to a new association of persons. Gesellschaft means either company (US corporation) or partnership. Legal entity works quite well for this in English, or it would if people didn’t so often use it to mean a company (legal person).

On the whole, the term seems to be used by people who don’t quite understand what they’re writing:

Die LWSG existiert weiter, allerdings mehr oder weniger nur noch auf dem Papier als so genannte “Legal-Einheit”, das heißt als juristische Firma, aber ohne eigene Geschäftsführung.

(This relates to Evonik, who seem keen on the term elsewhere too).

Definitions found on the Web:
rechtliche Person
rechtlich eigenständiges Unternehmen


The joys of the internet. Does one reply to an email like this?

Hey Margaret,
We’re just checking in to see if you received your order (Ideal and Actual in The Story of the Stone) from XYZ Books. If your order hasn’t blessed your mailbox just yet, heads are gonna roll in the * warehouse! Seriously though, if you haven’t received your order or are less than 108.8% satisfied, please reply to this message. Let us know what we can do to flabbergast you with service.
Humbly Yours,
Indaba (our super-cool email robot)

I got this book ages ago, much sooner than one would expect, and I thought I left positive feedback somewhere.

flickr and Moo are also incredibly upbeat. flickr (which I scarcely use) tries to appear multilingual by greeting me with bizarre foreign hellos, and Moo is constantly celebrating something. Maybe I need something of what they’re on.

Meanwhile, I am not getting a great deal out of Twitter. My biggest problem is that I skim or read lots of blogs, including translation blogs, by RSS. On Twitter, translators sometimes make it clear they’re linking to their latest post, but most of the time, they give these shorter links – usually to each other’s posts – which give nothing away, and a vague reference, and if I click on them I find something I read, sometimes weeks earlier, or that I would get to later in the day. I’m also not clear about the value of followfriday, when people just cite everyone who links to them – there’s no space to give value – but that’s OK, because I can ignore it. And at least Twitter showed me where I can vote against Tony Blair becoming EU president, although I suspect that may do little more than make me feel better.

IT in Supreme Court

In the Times Online, Richard Susskind describes the IT systems used or to be used in future in the new Supreme Court. So the new building has done some good!

Fixed cameras are installed (banned in other courts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland).

Documents discussed to be shown on screens.

The three courts are also equipped with document display systems. Elegant, black, flat, high-resolution monitors sit before all judges. When barristers argue their cases, the precise pages under discussion appear on the screens. The judges do not need to search for paper-based folders and documents. This technology alone can cut hearing times by a quarter.

Justices can use laptops and mark up documents on them.

Unless permission is given, everything must be filed both on paper and electronically.

Information for public online:

What about the public and the lawyers? Any web user can find out the status of cases before the court. Details are fed from the case management system to the website (, so people can view summary information and lawyers peruse in greater detail.

Hope it all works!

(Tweeted by Nick Holmes)