The Senior Prize in Literary Translation is an annual translation contest hosting by the Department of Comparative Literature and open to all graduating seniors at the University of Michigan. Annika Hoffmann was awarded the 2021 Senior Prize in Literary Translation for her translation from German of the short story "Seegeister" by Ilse Aichinger.
The prize committee admired Annika’s haunting translation of a haunting story about mysterious happenings at a lake. In an eloquent translator’s preface, Annika explained how her translation “heightens” the atmosphere of the German text, “coming at the story through a veil” through the stylistic strangeness of English that “enhances the mythical and supernatural elements of the tale.”
Annika graduated in 2021 with a BA in Comparative Literature (with Honors) and Political Science. She wrote a Comparative Literature Honors Thesis, supervised by Benjamin Paloff, entitled “Sanitized Spaces: The Marginalization of Niche Pornography on a German Fanfiction Site”. Annika will be studying law at Georgetown next year.
Excerpt from Translator’s Preface:
“Seegeister” recounts strange happenings at a lake popular among summer holiday-goers: a man driving his boat out on the lake finds that his motor will no longer shut off; a woman cannot remove her sunglasses without vanishing into nothing. . . . . Reading over my translation, I feel as though I am floating through a mist of unending sentences, breathing in fleeting images, coming at the story through a veil. The stylistic strangeness in English enhances the mythical and supernatural elements of the tale. . . . . While Aichinger may have written the tales in the context of her frustrations with post-war Austria, her narratives can be understood to concern anyone.. . . . Hence my translation of “Seegeister” [as] Spirits of the Lake, not ghosts. Despite its preoccupation with death, the story is not a ghost story. It is a fairy tale, in which the lines between spirit and reality “in shifting, become once again very clear.”