TALKS Werke & Tage "Translating a scene..."
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"Translating a scene..."

Film Series Translating. Work and Days.

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Übersetzen. Werke und Tage: Georg Witte & Sabine Hänsgen

Sabine Hänsgen (born 1955) and Georg Witte (born 1952) experienced the losses of the Second World War as part of their own family history, which also fuelled their interest in Russian culture. The future translator duo met while studying Slavic Studies at the Reform University in Bochum. The atmosphere of renewal in research and teaching there and the focus on contemporaneity had a decisive influence on both of them. When Hänsgen and Witte went to Moscow with their research projects at the beginning of the 1980s, they quickly made contact with unofficial Soviet art - and threw themselves into translating. Their aim was "not only to publish in writing as a book, but also to convey the entire milieu in the voices, actions and performances that took place there," says Georg Witte. Sabine Hänsgen smuggled a VHS camera into Moscow to record the artistic actions and performances. "To discover the similar in the dissimilar or the dissimilar in the similar" is how she describes the approach of embedding the conceptual art of the Soviet underground in a Western context. The first publication, the media package "Kulturpalast" (1984), was soon followed by others. The double pseudonym of the translator couple, Günter Hirt & Sascha Wonders, once conceived as protection against censorship, lived on even after the end of the Soviet Union. Thanks to the work of Günter Hirt & Sascha Wonders, we can now read the voices of Igor Cholin, Vsevolod Nekrasov, Dmitri Prigov and Lev Rubinstein, among others, in German translations. For Hänsgen and Witte, the full-scale Russian invasion in 2022 meant an "existential cut", as it did for other colleagues who deal with Russian literature.

Filmstill: Georg Witte

Sabine Hänsgen ©Georg Witte

The series Translating. Work and Days portrays ten translators of different generations who talk about their lives and their work. All of them translate into German from Slavic languages. In the 9 films, Ganna-Maria Braungardt, Claudia Dathe, Christiane Körner, Gabriele Leupold, Aljonna Möckel, Thomas Reschke, Rosemarie Tietze, Thomas Weiler, as well as the duo Günter Hirt & Sascha Wonders alias Sabine Hänsgen and Georg Witte, all speak to us. Their accounts of origins, encounters, discoveries, and experiences are set against the backdrop of photographic documents. Personal histories are told against the background of greater history. The series was in the process of being made when Russia began its large scale invasion of Ukraine on the 24th February 2022. Thus the last intermediate chapter in the films came into being: The War.


Idea, Director, Producer: Anna Shibarova
Camera, Sound and Editing: Elizaveta Snagovskaia
English subtitles: David Drevs, James Cohen ©2023

The series “Translating. Work and Days” was funded by the Deutscher Übersetzerfonds through the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media’s NEUSTART KULTUR programme. The video-portraits were published between July and December 2023.

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