Women In Translation – ein Interview

Marcia Lynx Qualey hatte vor einer Weile Zoë Beck für diesen Blogeintrag interviewt. Sie wollte wissen, wie es in anderen Ländern um die Übersetzung von Autorinnen steht, und was getan werden könnte, um die Situation zu verbessern. Dazu sammelte sie viele Stimmen. Danke, Marcia, für den tollen Einsatz!

Das gesamte Interview mit Zoë wollten wir aber dann doch noch mal in voller Länge bringen:

MLQ: Why do you think an initiative like Women in Translation month is important? Does it have any drawbacks? Of course I have received a message from a male writer telling me it is sexist. 🙂

ZB: If we actually had true equal rights, it would be sexist. Until we reach that point, one thing is true for many professional fields: Women need to become more visible. This is why I think Women in Translation Month is a marvelous idea. As soon as we move into the more “serious” end of the literary spectrum, on the other side of genres that are considered of lower status, such as “Romance,” you discover that male authors are typically overrepresented. For example, in the awarding of prizes. The classification “Women’s Literature” may sell books, but this category name is used pejoratively (outside of firmly feminist contexts.) Thus, no, this idea is not sexist. Male writers always have a venue, anywhere, anytime. They don’t need additional emphasis, since they are the norm.

Besides that, I think an initiative to promote translated literature is highly commendable. How else are we supposed to learn more about other countries and cultures? In Germany, the vast majority of translations come from the English-speaking countries, primarily the US and the UK. I’m especially impressed by the “Litprom” organization, which seeks to advance literature from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle Eastern countries, and actually awards a specific prize to female authors: the LiBeratur Prize.

MLQ: Is there a similar problem with women published in German translation? Why do you think this is/isn’t? 

ZB: I have already mentioned several reasons above. For example, if a woman writes a politically or socially themed novel, it is perceived as less sellable. The focus is supposed to remain on love stories or a family dramas. If a man writes a family or love story, his emotional depth is praised, his language, everything imaginable. And in the end, other layers of meaning will still be sought, the political and social connotations… Even if a book has a particular placement in its country of origin, it may be repackaged for the German market. A novel about life in the Gaza Strip by a female Palestinian author was once turned into a “sweeping family saga” in the book blurb, with pretty orange trees on the cover. That is just one example.

MLQ: How is it possible for women to be marginalized in a space where women are the majority of readers? (In Germany, are women also the dominant book buyers? Do you know?)

ZB: Yes, according to estimates, about 70% of all book purchases are made by women. And significantly more women than men are employed in the publishing industry at large. However, things look quite different when you examine the positions of leadership. I think this marginalization is the main reason that something that is conceived as “for women” only appeals to or is only meant to appeal to women. When a man writes something, both genders are interested in it. At least, that is the claim. It is similar with movies: male protagonist – interest for both genders; female protagonist – chick flick. That is why if you want to reach everyone, you have to be a man or to write something about a man. It is absurd. We women are responsible for the majority of the revenues earned, but we are not taken seriously.

MLQ: How has gender differently impacted you in your different identities (novelist, publisher, translator)? 

ZB: As author: The great themes are reserved for men. As a woman, I have been repeatedly told this, and informed that it would be better if I stuck to topics linked to family and women. Even in the crime fiction world. Couldn’t I please not write so much about politics in my books, and concentrate more on feelings and adjectives, landscape descriptions? (We’re still talking about the crime genre here.) I have been told by numerous male readers that they like to read my books because I “write like a man.”

As translator: Strangely enough, in the poorly paid segment of the translation world, there are many more female translators than male ones. Strangely enough, the great, serious books are often translated by men. Or at least that’s where you find the male translators.

As publisher: It is interesting that many of the digital pioneers are women – Christiane Frohmann, Nikola Richter… I know so many talented, intelligent women who work in publishing, but only very few ever work their way to the top, while their male counterparts quickly and conspicuously surpass them. As I mentioned before, the publishing world is primarily female in its composition, though it is a very different story if you only look at the positions of leadership. In publishing, there are also traditionally female departments, such as PR, where hardly any men work. I find that rather funny – Why are men supposedly incapable of doing PR?

There is still a long way to go until anyone can talk about true gender equality. Until that day comes, any preference or elevation of work by women is not discrimination, but sheer necessity.


Das Interview kam zustande dank der Übersetzerin Rachel Hildebrandt, die kürzlich erst das Label Weyward Sisters Publishing gründete – wo ausschließlich Crime und Noir von Frauen erscheinen wird.

Über zoebeck

Zoë Beck ist Autorin und Übersetzerin. Zusammen mit Jan Karsten leitet sie den Verlag Culturbooks. www.zoebeck.net
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Eine Antwort zu Women In Translation – ein Interview

  1. zoebeck schreibt:

    Hat dies auf Zoë Beck rebloggt.

    Gefällt mir

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