Welcome to Est. 1999, the official blog of Abraham Translations. As is perhaps easy to surmise, the name of this blog reflects the year that Abraham Translations was founded.
It all began with the correction of a few texts that had been translated by another time-pressed translator. Within the year, translating had become my main source of income; now, it has long been the only way I put bacon on the table.
I am rather proud of many of the projects on which I have worked.
Est. 1999, basically, is a visual confirmation of past projects, a blowing of my own horn, a presentation of translator-related topics, and an occasional departure into other areas that I deem worthy of presenting. Enjoy.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Klaus Zylla (Exhibition Catalog)

(ISBN-10: 3925782591 / ISBN-13: 978-3925782596; 25 cm x 31 cm)
The German artist Klaus Zylla, born Cottbus in 1953, currently lives and works in Berlin and Reguengo Pequeno (Portugal).
This 128-page catalog was published in 2008 by Die Galerie, Frankfurt for a travelling exhibition of the artist which was on display at Die Galerie, Frankfurt/Main, 12/3-7/6/2008; ESPACIO D-14, Madrid, July-August 2008; Galeria SKL, Palma de Mallorca, 26/9-30/11/2008; GalleriModenArte, Modena, February-March 2009; Galleri Astley, Uttersberg/S, April-June 2009; Kunstsammlung Jena, 21/6-23/8/2009; and Ludwig Museum Koblenz, September-October 2009. The catalog included texts by Eberhard Piltz, Beate Reifenscheid, Erik Stephan, Maurizio Vanni and Peter Femfert — and I did the German to English translations.
Below is a slightly larger reproduction of the Zylla painting used on the publication's cover, Rückzug mit Bukephalos (2006), or "Retreating with Bucephalus". (For those of you who are a bit shaky when it comes to your history, Bucephalus was the horse of Alexander the Great; one of the most famous horses of antiquity, it supposedly met its end after the Battle of the Hydaspes River in 326 BC, in what is now modern Pakistan.)

Friday, 19 June 2015

Between Insanity & Beauty – The Art Collection of Dr. Prinzhorn (Germany, 2007)

75 min., German title (as you can see by the poster above): Zwischen Wahnsin und Kunst – Die Sammlung Prinzhorn. In 2005, I translated the treatment to this documentary from gebrueder beetz filmproduktion, written and directed by Christian Beetz himself. Release two years later in 2007, the film went on to win a Grimme Award in 2008.
As written in the documentary's press release (which I didn't translate): "The collection created by Dr. Hans Prinzhorn is one of the world's largest collections of artwork by schizophrenic patients. [...] Artists such as Paul Klee, Jean Dubuffet, Alfred Kubin and Max Ernst were highly inspired by the so-called 'insane art'. [...] These masters of modern art were [later] found together with parts of the Prinzhorn Collection in the infamous Degenerate Art exhibition organized by the National Socialists.
Later these pieces of art were forgotten, although many artists, such as Salvador Dali or Pablo Picasso, continued to praise this singular collection; likewise, among the Paris Surrealists, the Prinzhorn publication Bildnerei der Geisteskranken / Artistry of the Mentally Ill (1922) was regarded as a Bible.
The film follows the history of this unique collection and delves past the artwork itself and into the inner-worlds of the schizophrenic patients. But the film does not restrict itself to a mere historical analysis; it is also a step into the present. It accompanies two mentally ill patient-artists and asks the central question of how art and illness are to be defined today."

Above is an example of the fabulous work by Madge Gill, one of the many masters found in the Prinzhorn Collection.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Polvo: The Dust of the Ancestors

Felix PestemerPolvo: Der Staub der Ahnen / La Poussière des Aïeux / El polvo de los antepasados / The Dust of the Ancestors
This book has gone through two versions, and I had the pleasure of doing the English translations to both the original version, published as Day of the Dead in a limited edition of 400 copies in 2009 (ISBN 978-3-00-028080-1), as well as the expanded version published in 2011.
Over at Jitter Magazin, Andreas Rauth had the following to say about the book: "Felix Pestemer is a good narrator and an excellent colorist with a keen sense for details. Lavish compositions are his strength, the arrangement of material objects in particular. Building on profound research on the topic, the illustrator and author has succeeded in creating an autonomous docufiction full of empathy and irony as well as, and not least of all, an extraordinary contribution to intercultural communication."
The plot of the book (to paraphrase the text at Pestemer's own website): While the Rojas family is preparing the Day of the Dead celebration in the cemetery, one branch of the family has already started to party — and in the midst of them: the little Benito, who recently died in a car accident. He's now one of the illustrious circle surrounding the Zapatista El Negro and the 170-year-old mask maker José Guadalupe Rojas: the dead of the family.
It's the time of the year when the living family members commemorate the deceased ones. As long as those living still keep doing this, the dead continue to exist — be it in heaven, in the afterlife, or in the crypt. Only when there is no one left to remember them do they finally fall to dust.
Inspired by the wall paintings of the Mexican muralists, the story of Benito and his family is told through drawings and gives a (very personal) impression of the rites and traditions on the Day of the Dead. Polvo ("Dust") presents a culture in which death is not a taboo but has a place in everyday life; a culture that celebrates the dead and makes skeletons dance.
Felix Pestemer has also exhibited twice at my gallery Martinski Fine Arts, first in 2008 and again in 2012.
Alongside the graphic novel Cargo, The Dust of the Ancestors is one of the few graphic novels that I've had the pleasure of translating.

A German TV report on
The Day of the Dead & Felix Pestemer:

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Bloemaert Effect: Colour and Composition in the Golden Age

Catalog to the exhibition at the Centraal Museum of Utrecht, (11 Nov. 2011-5 Feb. 2012) and the Staatliches Museum Schwerin (24 Feb.-28 May 2012). (Hardcover, Michael Imhof Verlag [Dec. 7, 2012] ISBN-10: 3865687318, ISBN-13: 978-3865687319, 192 pages)
This Abraham Bloemaert catalog was actually a project of my fellow translator Finbarr Morrin, but due to the size of the job he (as is common in the business) pulled in a variety of translators to help, including moi. In all truth, I enjoyed the job immensely and was rather jealous of being only a subcontractor.
We went to the opening of the exhibition in Schwerin, which in itself was an excellent show of an excellent artist. Throughout the entire show, English and German explanations of the relevant history were found in large type on the walls and, next to each painting, small edited and/or partially re-written versions of the explanatory texts of the catalog, including those I had done.
Somewhere along the way, however, the decision had obviously been made that all the new English-language texts on the walls as well as the rewritten explanations didn't need to be checked by a native speaker. The result? The very first sentence at the entranceway had a glaring grammatical error, the first of a variety to be found in the welcoming wall text. In fact, so many of the English wall texts we read in the exhibition were equally flawed that we stopped looking at them. It truly hurt to see texts that had been translated with love and care mangled by the editing and re-writing of someone who obviously thought their English-as-a-foreign-language skills were too good to require checking by a native speaker.
But then, that happens often with translations: the contracting client, convinced of his or her own abilities (or the abilities of some subordinate), rewrites and edits and changes the text(s), creating something that is embarrassing to a native speaker and absolutely mortifying for the original translator.
Luckily, the texts as found in the catalog were not retouched, and the publication remains of the kind that a translator is proud to have taken part in.