Translators are used to wearing all kinds of hats. On Monday, I might be an expert on pneumatic materials for a textile magazine. Come Tuesday, I’m subtitling a children’s film on mammals; Wednesday, an audio guide for ancient Greek temples and on Friday, I might be back in the regime of East German seen through the eyes of Brigitte Reimann.
So it has been a great pleasure for me to don the editorial Mad Hat and read my way through other translators’ worlds that have been created for this special German language translation issue, cut.ting edge: austrian, german and swiss writing in translation. The name reflects the contemporariness of the writing in this latest Mad Hat Annual, and the state-of-the-art translations within it: whether you find yourself in a Zurich taken over by wild animals and plants, in a familiar fairy tale with an unfamiliar protagonist, trapped in a burning asylum home in Hoyerswerda, transformed into a beetle who works from her bedroom in a call centre, or in a McCarthy-style interrogation in the US, you will notice the crispness of the prose, the freshness of the ideas and the boldness of each voice.
In the poetry section, there is a great deal of free form and deviant use of language. Among the poems you will find an inspired Scottish translation of Swiss dialect, some thoughts finally freed from the constraints of the GDR, a delicate labyrinth of contradictions and counter-claims, as well as contemporary musings on the safety of our lives.
I will say – probably unfashionably – that reading is not all about accessibility: some ideas are complex and take a few readings to understand, and this might be the case with our selection of two plays by Martin Clausen. They contain complex and subtle ideas with associations that sometimes appear only after a second (or third) reading. However, I guarantee you will laugh aloud before the subtler meanings materialise. That is what I love about these plays.
We also have a showcase of two artists whose work deserves attention: Karl Kunz and Milorad Krstic. Not all artists have the fame they deserve during their lifetimes, such as Karl Kunz, who was forbidden under the Nazi regime and displayed at an exhibition of Entartete Kunst. His work is an eclectic mixture of styles and influences. The same can be said of Milorad Krstic. His incredible range of talent extends from pencil drawing to collage, a sample of which we have tried to represent in the selection here.
No Mad Hat Annual would have been possible without the tireless work of my Transfiction colleagues, Jenny Piening and Helen Rutley, whose support and comments have been invaluable. I would like to thank the superb translators featured in this issue for their contributions, their feedback and ideas for texts. We hope you enjoy reading them!
Lucy Renner Jones