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Translation Challenge win - following the language to perfection

We hear from Dr Eleoma Bodammer, Reader in German Studies, about her prize-winning translation of Zafer Şenocak’s short poems.

Dr Eleoma Bodammer, Reader in German Studies in the School of Literatures, Language and Cultures (LLC), has won the Wales PEN Cymru Translation Challenge 2020.

Photo of Eleoma Bodammer receiving an award
Dr Eleoma Bodammer (centre) receiving a Students' Association award for Best Assessment Feedback

Described by adjudicator Karen Leeder as having “stood out at once”, Eleoma’s translation of Berlin-based Zafer Şenocak’s ‘Nahaufnahmen’ (Close-ups) series was entered under a pen name and judged anonymously.

Born in Turkey, Zafer Şenocak has become a leading voice in discussions on multiculturalism, national and cultural identity, and a mediator between Turkish and German culture. ‘Nahaufnahmen’ (Close-ups) is characteristic of his self-conscious, spare and sinuous poetry; “the poems bristle with powerful and precise images but also a kind of syntactical looseness made visible in the blank lines and the complete lack of punctuation” (Karen Leeder).

In winning the Translation Challenge, which will be awarded during an online ceremony on International Translation Day (30th September), Eleoma was praised for “following the sinuous language to perfection and entirely in tune with that spare voice. But [she] also managed to capture the idiomatic tone and the elusive poetry: even hinting at the moments of rhyme and assonance.”

Research and teaching

This is the second time in four years that an LLC academic has won the Translation Challenge, with Dr Şebnem Susam-Saraeva (Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies) winning the 2017 edition for her translation of the Turkish poem b a h ç e d e ö l ü m.

In 2020, the competition was limited to Welsh entrants, or entrants with a connection to Wales. Eleoma was born and raised in Wales, and first learned German in her local comprehensive school in Newport, going on to gain a PhD in German Literature at Manchester.

At the University of Edinburgh, Eleoma's research has focused on mid-18th and early 19th century German literature, as well as the field of literary translation, including German translations of Robert Burns’ poetry and on the reception of his work in Austria. She is also a prize-winning teacher. Postgraduate students can take her Portfolio of Written Exercises for German course, a practical course in German to English and English to German translation, and she regularly teaches German Language Paper 2, a literary prose translation course for final year undergraduate students.

Of her comparative work on translations of Burns’ ‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night’, in which she focuses solely on neglected German women translators, Eleoma says “Studying them comparatively really unearthed the religious sensitivities of the translators and the implications of their different strategies and decisions. I think students will appreciate my attention to detail when looking at word choices, nuances of tone and rhythm.”

Update - October 2021. Eleoma has published a blog post in the University of Edinburgh's Teaching Matters mini series on social justice and anti-discrimination. In the post, she describes the process of designing the innovative, undergraduate course “Researching Disability in German Literature and Society” which challenges students to critically reflect on excluded and underrepresented voices in Modern European Languages.

Read Eleoma's blog post on Teaching Matters

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We teach full four-year undergraduate programmes, both single and joint honours. Our staff also teach on interdisciplinary masters programmes such as Translation Studies, Comparative Literature, Film Studies, and Intermediality, as well as supervising MSc by Research programmes and PhDs in German.

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Related links

Read Eleoma's prize-winning translation on the Wales PEN Cymru website

Find out more about this year's Translation Challenge on the Poetry Wales website

Read our interview with International Booker Prize shortlisted translators Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh