Professor Peter Filkins Translation Named a Best Book of 2011
The New Republic named Professor Peter Filkins' translation of H.G. Adler's Panorama one of the best books of 2011. Adler (1910-1988), a Czech national born in Prague who survived the Nazi concentration camps, went on to turn his personal experience into fictional novels.
Although he authored 26 books in fiction, stories, poems, history, philosophy and religion in German, none of his novels had been translated from German into English until Filkins came upon Adler's novel The Journey in a Cambridge, MA bookstore in 2001. After reading only two pages, he knew that he would have to bring the novel to English audiences.
“The richness and uniqueness of H.G. Adler's writing captivated me from the start when I first encountered his novel The Journey in German. Only later did I learn that… he had been almost entirely unknown and neglected,” Filkins explained. “To have had a hand in changing that and seeing new books and conferences on Adler cropping up in America and Europe has been deeply satisfying.”
Filkins completed The Journey a year later and began looking for a publisher. It took him another six years, and pitching to more than 40 publishers, before Random House agreed to take it on in 2008.
After completing Panorama, he began translating The Wall, a third novel which will complete Adler's trilogy on his experiences in Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Buchenwald and several other camps. The Wall is due out in 2013.
Filkins regards Adler's trilogy of novels as key holocaust texts. His translations have been instrumental in bringing Adler's work, which had largely been lost and ignored, to new audiences. They are now widely read in English, in the European languages and in Hebrew. Filkins is currently working on H.G. Adler's biography which he expects to complete in 2014. “It's exciting to bring an author like him back,” Filkins said. “Nothing is more personal than language. As a translator you are delving into their consciousness, you get to know him and his experience. It can be tough because his experiences are dark, but he is a hopeful writer.”
Filkins first learned German in college. In 1983 he was awarded a Fulbright grant in 1983 to the University of Vienna where he translated the poems of Ingeborg Bachmann. His poetry, translations, and criticism have appeared in numerous journals, including the New Republic, the American Scholar, the New Criterion, Paris Review, Agni, the American Poetry TriQuarterly, Poetry, the Masachusetts Review, Poetry Criticism, Contemporary Literary Criticism, USA Today, The World and I, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, and the New York Times Book Review. Filkins' third volume of poetry, Augustine's Vision, was the winner of the New American Press' 2010 Chapbook contest.