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.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Victor Segalen (2010)

(Documentary film, 52 minutes, produced by gebrueder beetz, ZDF/arte in coproduktion mit Sichuan TV.  Written by Maria Zinfert and directed by Tamara Wyss, the latter of whom passed away here in Berlin on 30 March 2016.) 
Completed in 2010, way back 2007 I worked on a treatment to this documentary on "Victor Segalen (14 January 1878 – 21 May 1919), [who] was a French naval doctor, ethnographer, archaeologist, writer, poet, explorer, art-theorist, linguist and literary critic [Wikipedia]."
As way to often on way too many German websites, the English-language synopsis of the documentary found at gebrueder beetz's website was obviously provided by Google Translator, so here's what they say about the film at German Documentaries instead: "In the spring of 1914 a French archaeological expedition, led by the French poet and medical doctor Victor Segalen, entered the province of Sichuan in order to do research on burial mounds of the Han era (206 BCE-220 CE) and early Chinese Buddhist iconography and epigraphy. Research in this realm still continues in Sichuan today, but the means and techniques of the archaeologists and art historians are more complex and advanced compared to those of a century ago. Segalen, who lived in China from 1909 until 1914, was fluent in the Chinese language and was able to read ancient Chinese writings. He was a great admirer of Chinese culture and history."

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Now It's Time for English!

Surprise! Although my main income is indeed translation, occasionally I do layout or even illustration. From 2003 to 2004, for example, I was the house illustrator for Oskar Lernt Englisch, a school here in Berlin that specializes in teaching kids English. Basically, that meant drawing a new worksheet pretty much once every two weeks. Somewhere along the way, the school also put out a kiddy CD — pictured above — which I also illustrated.
Except for Oskar himself, I came up with all the reoccurring characters in the worksheets, including Mr. Magic, whom you see singing on the cover above. Dunno whether either the worksheets or characters are still being used at OLE, but it was an enjoyable job.
Like the animators at Disney, I liked to slip in the occasional Easter Egg... but no one ever found any of them! (Instead, some mother once complained about Mr Magic 'cause magic is unholy and she didn't want her kid learning English from a satanic character.)

Monday, 1 August 2016

Hoffenheim – Das Leben ist kein Heimspiel (2010)

(Feature documentary by Frank Pfeiffer & Rouven Rech, Sommerhaus Filmproduktion in co-production with Filmaufbau Leipzig & ZDF.) 
The title translates into "Life Isn't a Home Game", but outside of Germany I believe the film was simply titled Hoffenheim. Hoffenheim – Das Leben ist kein Heimspiel premièred within the scope of the 2010 Filmfestival Max Ophüls Preis. 
I did the subtitles to this great documentary. (If I remember correctly, one of the directors [Rouven Rech] contacted me directly; I later ended up later working on another intriguing documentary of his, Adopted [2011].) In general, I hate sports films, fiction or non-fiction, but Hoffenheim – Das Leben ist kein Heimspiel has ended up being one of my favorite non-fiction sport films about soccer (a position it shares with only one other movie, the Dutch soccer documentary The Other Final [2003 / trailer]).
German Trailer:
 
Hoffenheim – Das Leben ist kein Heimspiel, which took three years to film, tells the tale of how the local (as in "amateur") soccer team TSG 1899 Hoffenheim came to enter the first division, where it still plays today. The team as it is now known, as well as its home stadium, were literally built by the multi-millionaire Dietmar Hopp.
As Wikipedia explains: "Hopp is the chief financial backer of the German football club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. When Hopp, who had played in the club's youth setup, started supporting the club in 2000, Hoffenheim were playing in the fifth division of German football. Today, Hoffenheim are in the First Bundesliga, and in their first season in the top flight in 2008–09, they led the league at its winter break. Hopp also spent €100 million to build a new 30,000-seat stadium called Rhein-Neckar-Arena near Sinsheim for the club."
Hoffenheim - Das Leben ist kein Heimspiel follows the movers and shakers that made the team what it is now as well as the original Joe-Schmoe fans of the former local team which, thanks to the magic cure known as "unlimited money", became big time.
As Zeit Online more or less wrote: "The opening scene of Frank Pfeiffer and Rouven Rech's award-winning documentary film Das Leben ist kein Heimspiel takes place in January, 2007. For three years, the two filmmakers accompanied the former small town soccer club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. And if there was ever a time when it was worth following a football club around for awhile, then it was during the later naughts for Hoffenheim. [...] This film would not count as one of the most impressive sports documentaries around if it merely told the story of Hoffenheimer's success. Instead, it captures the ambivalence between tradition and modernity, between sausage and fireworks. German professional football took about 25 years to shake off the stigma of provincialism and concern itself with making money. TSG Hoffenheim managed that in just three years. It was an experiment of maximum acceleration that did transpire without bumps. [...]"

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The Future is Now! The Art Avant-garde of China Conquers the Market / Die Zukunft ist jetzt! Chinas Kunst Avantgarde erobert den Markt (2007)

Many years ago, when China and its art were suddenly getting hip, I translated a treatment for a four-part documentary TV series – this one. Produced by Gebrueder Beetz on behalf of ZDF/arte, the series was directed by Ilka Franzmann and written by Marco Wilms. As far as we can tell, the series was last screened on TV (arte) in 2011.
From the Beetz website:
"In China, 'the' land of globalization and gold-rush spirit, art likewise follows the Circe-song of international capital. Just like the skyscrapers of Shanghai, the prices for Chinese art are skyrocketing to new heights. By now, Chinese artists are being exhibited all over the world, including at important museums in Paris, and are being feted at leading international art events such as the Venice Biennale and Kassel Documenta. In the four-part series, we reveal the background and underlying stories behind the extraordinary work of the leading Chinese Shooting Stars – all of whom are representatives of a generation in upheaval and change."
The individual "shooting stars" given one 26-minute episode of their own: the at the time most-expensive painter of modern China Liu Xiaodong; "the current darling of the Western art world" Yang Fudong; Cao Fei, whose "work also moves to the technological pulse of the times"; and "the 26-year-old rebel" Chi Peng.
Trailer:

Monday, 18 July 2016

The Most Secret Place on Earth: The CIA's Covert War in Laos / Amerikas geheimer Krieg in Laos - Die größte Militäroperation der CIA (2009)

(Documentary film written and directed by Marc Eberle; produced by Gebrüder Beetz Filmproduction with WDR/NDR/ARTE; 75/52/43 min, HD.)
In 2008, I worked on the voiceover text to this interesting documentary that surely hasn't been seen much within the USA.
Trailer:

To simply take an excerpt from the documentary's English-language press release:
"The Vietnam War was the most intensely mediated war ever. However, next door in neighboring Laos, the longest and largest air war in human history was underway, which eventually made Laos the most bombed country on earth. What’s more, outside of Laos no one knew.
"The Secret War was the largest operation ever conducted by the CIA, yet to this day, hardly anyone knows anything about it. Critics call it the biggest war crime of the Vietnam War era and point to striking similarities to the present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan; similarities that were tested and set in motion back in Laos in the 1960s. The use of private contractors, mercenaries, as well as the exclusion of Congress and the press gave the executive branch a free hand to wage unlimited warfare as they saw fit. During the Secret War a bomb load was dropped on Laos every eight minutes over a period of eight years – 2.1 million tons of bombs fell onto this small landlocked South East Asian nation altogether, more than on Europe and the Pacific theatre combined during World War II. Even today much of the countryside is poisoned by Agent Orange and littered with unexploded devices. To date, the country has still not found peace, and remnants of the CIA’s secret army of Hmong hill tribe guerillas continue to clash with Lao government troops. [...]"
As an extra added attraction, below you find a video of one of the many wonderful songs sung by Ros Serey Sothea (1948 – 1977), perhaps one of the greatest Cambodian pop singers of the 20th century. Following the Fall of Phnom Penh, she was taken to the Kampong Som province and, presumably, executed. Her remains have yet to be discovered.
Ros Serey Sothea sings
Penh Chet Tae Bong Muoy - A Go Go:

Friday, 8 July 2016

Life Above the Clouds / Leben über den Wolken (2011)

(5 x 43 min or 5 x 52 min.) We first took part in this five-part documentary series way back in 2009, when we translated an early treatment for ma.ja.de. And then, as normal in the biz, that was that. We only recently found out that the series actually got produced as a German-Italian co-production with Stefilm.
The description of the series, as found both on the website of ma.ja.de and of the distributor of the series, Deckert Distribution: "In Life Above the Clouds, five locations on the European continent are presented where humans have managed, through perseverance and in a most impressive manner, to establish themselves 'above the clouds' despite all temptations of a simpler life further down below. They are one and all an exceptional phenomenon, for in many places, life at this altitude is threatened by extinction. New EU directives make the traditional forms of cultivation of many remote locations impossible, while the new, younger generations dream and desire to take part in the new globalised world of mobile phones and Internet. Likewise, the regional administrations and other institutions no longer concern themselves with some of the distant locations, thus making them uninhabitable. The series not only presents visually stunning and often extreme lifestyles found somewhere between heaven and earth, but also tells of the remnants of an ancient world that is soon to become part of the past."
The authors/directors and their respective episodes are as follows: Titus Faschina, (part 1) A Fairy-Tale Valley in the Carpathian Mountains; Carmen Butta and Anuschka Seifert, (part 2) A Monastery in the Pyrenees; Andreas Pichler, (part 3) A Mountain Farmer in South Tyrol; Nikos Dayandas and Stelios Apostolopoulos, (part 4) In the White Mountains of Crete; and Reinhard Kungel, (part 5) In the Hardangerfjord of Norway.

The only trailer to the series that we could find online is the super-mini arte spot above. Carles Mestres, however, the cinematographer of  Carmen Butta  and Anuschka Seifert’s A Monastery in the Pyrenees (part 2 of the series), put that entire episode online (non-embeddable  and in Italian) here.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Gardenia – Before the Last Curtain Falls / Gardenia – Bevor der letzte Vorhang fällt (2014)

(Documentary, HD, 88 minutes; directed by Thomas Wallner; written by Thomas Wallner & Eva Küpper.)
A Gebrüder Beetz Produktion, in coproduction with Savage Film, ZDF & Canvas, in association with arte & Telenet, supported by Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, FFA - German Federal Film Board, DFFF - German National Film Fund, MEDIA programme of the European Union & Flanders Audiovisual Fund.
Didn't do a lot on this project, just a synopsis or two. But the documentary is interesting and tragically touching, and well worth seeing if you have the chance. (There's a reason it has reaped in awards and special mentions at all the festivals it’s been screened.)
Trailer One:
In Vancouver, Janet Smith of  The Georgia Straight had the following to say about the feature-length documentary: "In these days of progress for transgender people, documentary filmmaker Thomas Wallner takes a timely, and artfully constructed, look back at a group of pioneers from the past. The aging stars of Gardenia, a hit Belgian cabaret show, recollect the pain of boyhood, the introduction of hormones, the life-threatening surgeries abroad, and, in some cases, the need to pay their bills with prostitution. Facing old age, one mourns her lost sexuality, another makes up for her lack of children by working at a hospital ward for sick kids, and a few succumb to loneliness. Wallner intercuts his interviews with avant-garde sequences from the show, producing a deeply moving account of survival, identity, and the healing power of art."
Queer Guru goes into greater detail in their review found here
Trailer Two:

Friday, 17 June 2016

Torsten Holtz – Half of Life Is Spent Waiting

(Bilingual catalog, ISBN-10: 3925782680 / ISBN-13: 978-3925782688, hardcover, 48 pages)
From 31 March 2011 to 4 June 2011, the young Berliner artist Torsten Holtz had his first exhibition at Die Galerie Frankfurt, and to the occasion the gallery published this catalog featuring texts by Volker Stelzmann, Maren Kirchhoff and Damiano Femfert.
I translated the text from German into English. The piece below was in the exhibition (and sold).
Hundeherz / Dogheart
2011, Oil on canvas, 100 x 70 cm

Over at Mutual Art, they more or less said the following about the exhibit: "The first solo exhibition of the Berlin artist Torsten Holtz (b. 1973) presented by DIE GALERIE in Frankfurt/Main features a broad selection of about 30 works, created by the young painter between 2004 and 2011. The show allows the viewer to trace the artistic development of the master student of Volker Stelzmann, and to experience an intensive encounter with Holtz' pictorial world. At first glance his portrayals of figures seem to be easily comprehensible, but upon longer reflection they begin to bemuse, unsettle, and pose riddles. The artist's figures watch and wait, silent in quite isolation, and radiate a peculiar, distanced lack of emotion. 'Half of Life Is Spent Waiting,' explains the artist, who sees the moments of humanity's existential emptiness described in the literary works of Beckett, Charms, and Bukowski as the key to his painting. True reality and Torsten Holtz' fantastic imagination intermesh to create a form of Magic Realism that is firmly anchored in the here and now of the 21st century."

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Houwelandt - Ein Roman entsteht (2005)

(Feature-length documentary, 107 minutes — the title freely translates into "Houwelandt — The Birth of a Novel".)
Here we have a documentary written and directed by Jörg Adolph about, as the title states, the creation of a novel (cover below).
John von Düffel is an award-winning German author, and Adolph's film follows him during the creation and subsequent publication and reception of his novel Houwelandt. As the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel points out: "He who believes that novels are still written by literary geniuses alone in a silent closet is a knave. Today, the author presents the publisher with a concept draft before starting to write."
We did the subtitles, contracted by Subs Hamburg.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Projekt: Superwoman (Austria, 2016)

(Documentary film, 90 min., written & directed by Barbara Caspar)
As a translator, you sometimes work projects that appear to fall off the face of the earth. Some you never hear of again, others suddenly reappear under a new name or the banner of some other firm than the one that originally contracted your services.
That's the case with this documentary film, Projekt: Superwoman, the topic of which we found truly intriguing when we translated a treatment for it seven years ago, way back in 2009 — and not for Lotus Film, the Austrian company releasing it this year.
Projekt: Superwoman was written and directed by Barbara Caspar, an art-house documentary director whose taste seems to lean towards absorbing feminist subjects. Here, she tackles the true and relatively unknown story (especially outside of Spain, where it transpired) of the radical proto-feminist Aurora Rodriguez (23 April 1879 — 28 Dec 1955) and her daughter Hildegart, "the Red Virgin".
Aurora was a firm believer in eugenics who, thanks to an unknown donor found via newspaper advertisements, produced her amazing daughter, Hildegart (born 9 Dec, 1914), a brilliant intellectual prodigy who spoke six languages, possessed a law degree, had written masses of articles and books, and become an international leftist leader all by her late teens. When Hildegart tried to become an independent woman and leave her overbearing and possessive mother for a position as secretary for H.G. Wells, Aurora shot her dead.
To paraphrase the Lotus Film website: Casper's documentary, Projekt: Superwoman, tells the story as a mixture of documentary and animation film; she examines the Rodriguez case and explores the extent to which this story reflects current mother-daughter relationships and modern lifestyles.
The story was previously filmed by the Peru-born Spanish filmmaker and actor Fernando Fernán Gómez (28 Aug 1921 — 21 Nov 2007) in 1977 as Mi hija Hildegart / My Daughter Hildegart (poster above), and as a short film in 2011 by Sheila Pye entitled The Red Virgin — "Red Virgin" being the nickname bequeathed Hildegart while still alive.
The director Boris Undorf, most likely unintentionally, used a riff of the story for his intriguing and unjustly unknown low-budget, US-set horror movie Sonata in 2004.
Trailer to
Boris Undorf's Sonata (2004):