April 6, 2015

Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Kilimanjaro Diaries has been Translated!

It was long in coming - one year, to the day - but now it is done: Kilimanjaro Diaries has been translated into German and is now available in the Kindle store.


Click on image to order from Amazon.de

If you're one of my many German blog readers (Germany just got edged out by Ukraine and is now in the #5 spot for all-time pageviews with South Africa, the United States, and the UK occupying the top three spots), you can now download Kilimandscharo-Tagebuch: Chlorwasser, kein WC, eiskalte Nächte - kurzum, ein Traumurlaub! directly to your Kindle or Kindle app from Amazon.de. Or, for that matter, from Amazon.com or any of the other Amazon stores, should you not actually reside in Germany.

Whew! I'm glad that's done and dusted. Time will tell if it was worth all the effort. I did learn a lot about the German language in the process. That, for instance, just because a comma might be in a certain place in an English sentence, it has no bearing on whether or when it will appear in a German one. Although it is extremely likely it will appear often. Just as likely as it is for your book to be one and a half times longer than the original, once you add all those super long words Germans insist on throwing about. Then again I'm very pleased to have actually shortened that lengthy subtitle of mine in the German edition.

What I'm also pleased about is the fact that this project made the English version better as well. How so, you might ask? Well - one of my German proofreaders, being a good German, was very nitpicky. Why did I say in one place that it was cold, and then two paragraphs later it was warm? (Answer: the sun had warmed up the day, duh!) Why did I have to list so many advantages and disadvantages of each Kili climbing route so as to leave the reader totally befuddled as to which one to take, instead of taking a clear stand? Why did I always have to come back with "...on the other hand one could say that..." type phrasings?

Those were all good questions. Using a precise language, I learned, makes you realize when you haven't been very precise. Often times I could get away with it in English when it seemed glaringly inconsistent in German. Of course, being a perfectionist, this meant I just had to go back and fix the English version as well. At the time, I thoroughly cursed this process. Having both a Kindle and a Paperback file for my originals (in very different formats), I had to not just rewrite it into one file but also copy it into the other one for every single change. And there were many.

Keeping track of my dear friend Hans Meyer - he of "first-to-summit" fame - also proved to be a chore. He wrote his account of the first ascent of Kilimanjaro in both German and English (or had it translated, I'm not sure which, but I suspect, with all the talents he possessed, and being a fluent English speaker due to all his travels, that he himself wrote both versions), and getting the appropriate quotes in the correct language meant I had to go back and find them instead of translating them myself. The problem: His German original looks like this:




Yeah, right? Makes the search box a tad hard to use. As a result, I was forever searching through that document so helpfully scanned by some caring soul at the University of California. It was a royal pain, but also resulted in some unexpected strokes of luck. I came across a few anecdotes I had overlooked in the English version (the very easy to read version on my very own Kindle, no less!) and simply had to include, like what happened to the rocks Hans Meyer brought back from the summit, or what nickname his porters had bestowed on him.

The hardest part: I had to come to terms with taking out an entire chapter - the epilogue. The one where I share all my hard-earned words of wisdom in 20 life lessons from climbing a mountain. They came across as annoying and preachy in German, which made me realize they're probably annoying and preachy in English too. Let the book tell its tale and let the reader come to his or her own conclusions, was the advice, and so I took it, even though it kills you to delete something you've already written.

To the Germans among you: I hope you get to read my new (old) book, and I hope you might be a tad more forgiving than my proofreading team! Nevertheless, I would love to hear from you, even if it's just about a spare comma.

Looking for the English version?

UK customers: click here.
German edition: click here.