Of tears and trenches.

Translation is often

an intensely affecting experience, belying the aura of a mechanical process that surrounds it in the thoughts of many.

The text can be so emotionally saturated that it is impossible to remain unaffected, of course. Whilst translating “We Were Three comrades – In the Trenches of WWI”, I found myself – and not for the first time during a translation – unable to continue because tears began to blur my view of the page. I don’t think anyone could remain unaffected by the book. When you know that it is drawn from a diary, written in the trenches by a German soldier in WWI, then the title alone implies that the narrative is not going to end well. Representing the experience of millions of soldiers who never had the chance to come back and tell us what happened to them, this book pulls no punches. This war is not romantic; this war boasts boredom, raw horrors, a ruthless pursuit of vile maiming and killing, satisfaction in the inflation and spread of fear.

Today, as then, for them and for us, these written words are the fingers of history, pointing, helping, warning… ignored.

PS. I think I can say with absolute certainty that the oaths written in the book are diluted versions, not the forceful originals!

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