Story of a translation

The protagonists: the “NZZ am Sonntag”, Hitler’s ENT doctor and Apostroph

The assignment we received from the “NZZ am Sonntag” on 2 June was nothing if not challenging. In terms of deadline, but also content. The story of a translation – in four acts.

Act 1: the phone call

The phone rings after office hours at Apostroph Luzern. Petra Waldispühl happens to be there; she takes the call. It’s “NZZ am Sonntag” editor-in-chief Jonas Projer. Are we able to translate something from German to English? We’d receive the text on Friday evening and have to deliver it by Saturday evening.

Act 2: the doctor and the Führer

The job involves translating a research article by Sacha Batthyany about Carl Otto von Eicken, the doctor who removed a polyp from Hitler’s vocal cords. Had the ENT specialist’s scalpel “slipped” a few millimetres during the surgical intervention at the Reich Chancellery on 23 May 1935, world history would have taken a different turn. Supplementing the article is an interview with the historian Richard J. Evans.
So, two demanding texts totalling just over 13 standard pages.

Act 3: deadlines

Friday morning finds Luzia Barmettler checking the feasibility and confirming to Jonas Projer at 10 am that Apostroph is able to deliver the translation by the specified deadline. The interview text arrives at midday; we forward it to our translator Katherine, who specialises in historical material. Later that day, just after 6 pm, we receive the main article together with amendments to the interview text. Katherine immediately launches herself into the German Führer’s vocal problem to ensure that Apostroph can deliver the translations by 6 pm on Saturday.

Act 4: happy ending

Half-an-hour later, Jonas Projer confirms safe receipt of the texts with thanks,
and on Sunday, excerpts from the “NZZ am Sonntag” article appear in “Der Spiegel”, while “The Guardian” prints excerpts of Apostroph’s English translation.

In the meantime, the story has also been picked up, via Reuters, by agencies in China, Morocco, Spain and Canada.

The “NZZ am Sonntag’s” article and interview are available here in English.

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Nadia Gaille
Head of Customer Success

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