Thanks to Carmen Gauger (Cartagena, 1937) we can read in Spanish the great classics of German literature. For his impeccable work he has just received the National Prize for the Work of a Translator.
What led you to delve into the German language and culture?
I started studying German reading German post-war authors such as Heinrich Böll and Wolfgang Borchert, who offered a very different and much more diverse picture of Germany than we had in Spain. That was the thread with which I was pulling the ball.
What recent German author would you recommend to discover?
And his favorite of all times?
In literature in the German language, Franz Kafka. In universal literature, Cervantes and Borges.
Which work has given you the most pleasure to translate?
Anton Reiser, by Karl Philipp Moritz, contemporary 18th-century author of Goethe. First "learning novel" and a masterpiece of extraordinary modernity.
And more headaches?
I want to stop being an insider, by Birger Sellin, young Berliner, mute and autistic. They all considered him mentally weak, until they discovered that he knew his father's library. He learned to write with computer: strangely original and poetic texts but so convoluted, invented words, ellipses, mixtures of words, absence of punctuation marks … which has undoubtedly been my greatest challenge in literary translation.
Do we have to love a text to translate it?
You do not have to love it a priori, but you should be taking it affectionately. If this is not achieved, translating that text is a torment. It has happened to me with three or four authors, of whom I have never wanted to know anything else.
I would like to translate to …
To many, but I would say immediately: Martin Suter, Daniel Kehlmann, Ödön von Horvath, Franz Werfel …
You have translated all kinds of genres: theology, theater, newspapers, stories, novels and poetry. Which you like best? And less?
Apart from poetry, which requires the effort of combining rhyme or rhythm with the fidelity of translation, gender is not important. The decisive thing is the quality of the text.
What order would I never accept?
Translate a text that does not have an acceptable level of literary quality.
What do you read when you read for pleasure?
Of everything. Now I'm with the Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe of Chateaubriand, but it is not always so exquisite. I just read the first fifteen volumes of The coyote, several novels by Sherlock Holmes, the trilogy of the saga Millenium, a biography of Rasputin, many stories by Pardo Bazán …
What is your favorite movie?
Difficult, because I have many, but in the end I would stay with The man who killed Liberty Valance, by John Ford, with a sensational John Wayne.
If you were not a translator, what would you like to be?
Museum curator, art gallery director …
What song would you choose as a self-portrait?
The truth is that as a self-portrait I can not think of anything, but as an identification: any of the cantatas by J. S. Bach.
What is socially overvalued?
In Spain, of course the communication: I have not seen in any country so many people holding the phone or typing in it.
What translation work would deserve a Nobel?
The translation of The Divine Comedy of Angel Crespo.