Doreen Daume (1957–2013)

31. 5. 2013

05_2013_Doreen Daume_Foto1Doreen Daume (1957–2013)  

Sometimes a translator’s career begins with some words scribbled in the margin of a book. That’s how it was with Doreen Daume, whose career got under way when she was reading the Polish avant-gardist Bruno Schulz (1892–1942). “I hadn’t thought much about translating then. But it grew on me, and I began to scribble in the books, marking passages which had stopped my reading progress.”

Doreen Daume came to her calling late in life. Her first translation was published in 2000, when Daume was forty-three years old. By that time she had graduated from the Vienna Conservatory in piano studies and completed training as an interpreter of English and Polish. Until her untimely death in 2013, she translated the works of numerous Polish authors, including works by Nobel Prize winner Czesław Miłosz (1911–2004), Olga Tokarczuk (born 1962), and Marek Krajewski (born 1966).

Next to prose, Daume took a special interest in poetry. In her opinion, the translation of a piece of poetry in its “true form” was an independent piece of literary art due to its complexity and graphic character, and the translator ought to be treated as its author. She often stated that she considered all translating as a new kind of authorship, and it grieved her very much to see that the translator was usually denied the attention and praise bestowed on the author. In 2009, when she was asked to participate in the First Translators’ Week at the University of Tübingen, she had the opportunity to work with students and to broaden their minds and public attitudes concerning this issue.

Doreen Daume’s career reached its peak where it had begun, with her translation of Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles (2008) and Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (2011). After years of looking for a publisher willing to try a new translation (the works of Bruno Schulz had already been translated into German in 1961), she was rewarded with high praise for bringing Schulz’s unique storytelling talent within the grasp of a wider range of German readers.

by Marlena Breuer and Jakob Walosczyk

The quotation from Doreen Daume is taken from a radio piece aired by Deutschlandfunk on 19 March 2008. Regarding the “true form,” the authors are indebted to Peter Wapnewski’s essay “Poems Are True Form,” published in Die Zeit on 4 February 1977.


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