As some people already know, Patrick wrote a book about his first around the world motorcycle trip that took place in 2004 and 2005. And finally, the English version; Fernweh: A Trans Continental Motorcycle Adventure is available on Amazon and Smashwords! The book came out in German in 2006 and he has been eager to have it translated into English ever since. I first agreed to do so in 2007! This was before I realized just how difficult it is to translate a book from a language you do not speak.
Some pictures from a slideshow Patrick made as part of his presentation for a Horizon’s Unlimited meeting on his first world trip. Watch them and feel for yourself what Fernweh means.
So it only took 5 years to translate the book! This is what I wrote on my blog when I first agreed to the task:
To translate a work from one language to another requires an intimate knowledge of both languages, an ability to recognize how words interplay in their respective languages, and a flair for subtly capturing the intended meaning. Translation is an art form, and it is something I am fully prepared to slaughter. That most authors will not undertake to translate their work into a known second language states what a momentous task it is. Milan Kundera wrote that he felt nothing but anger and frustration with the way “The Joke” was translated. Five published translations later and he has a work he supports. So how do you think I propose to save myself from this tragic ending? The one thing I do possess, direct access to the writer for an understanding of the author’s intentions, (ok I’m kidding myself here, no one is capable of understanding Patrick, but I think I have him figured close enough out I can do the book) and personal experience of part of the journey. Ok actually I fully intend to use an online translator and then use it as an outline to write my own book of his (and mine!) experiences. Hurray I’m going to be an author! (I think translators should get more respect, co authors!)
5 years later and an actual semi grasp of German later, I took advantage of the free time on our last world trip to flesh out more details, and I have spent the better part of my writing time in the last 6 months rewriting Fernweh.
Part two of the trip through South America slideshow:
Rather than restate what I wrote in Fernweh, I will post the translator’s note from the book here, and encourage you to watch the slideshows posted so you can get a real feel of what Fernweh is, and why I write that Wanderlust is just not the same! That punch in the gut that makes you yearn for a place, no matter that you have never been there, THAT is Fernweh!
You may be wondering why the title is only partially translated. I was quite tempted to rename it “Wanderlust,” the term English speakers normally use to describe the feeling of Fernweh. The problem is that since both are German words, Fernweh is simply not the same as Wanderlust. If Patrick had wanted Wanderlust he would have chosen that title and in doing so made my life much easier. I spent more time debating the title than on any other aspect of the book.
Wanderlust is the desire to travel but in a rather undefined way. The duration of the trip you desire is irrelevant and the key aspect is the feeling of desire. Therefore it is a much more pleasant and bearable feeling than Fernweh. The use of the word lust in German is not the sexual term it is in English, it means to want. So you can have “lust” to see a movie at the cinema or “lust” for chocolate.
Fernweh is a much stronger feeling. “Weh” means pain in German, and Fernweh can perhaps be best explained as the opposite of homesick. Except instead of feeling pain from missing your home and the familiar, the pain instead comes from the intense need to travel, to see new things and experience the world.
Therefore the two terms are close but changing the title to Wanderlust leaves out a key aspect that I think really defines the book. The desire to go on a motorcycle trip was not a passing fancy – it went much deeper than that. It was not just that Patrick wanted to travel the world on his motorcycle. It was an intense need to do so.
Instead of taking a job and beginning his career as soon as he left university, he bucked common sense and took off on a world trip. Even once he was on the trip there were times he wanted to stay for an extended time in one place and yet there was also something more powerful driving him onwards. It was not a time restraint, he had been a diligent Swabian (an area of Germany known for their thrifty ways) and worked long hours through university and saved every penny. This feeling, whatever it was, was something beyond curiosity or a desire to see the world. It was a pain that could only be soothed by packing up the bike and riding off. That is why I have decided to leave Fernweh in the title.
Yet, despite the struggle to remain true to the title and its meaning, this book is not an attempt at a faithful translation of the German edition of Fernweh. The first chapter of the German edition is an account of Patrick and his friend Boris’ journey to Morocco and back. The Moroccan trip was Patrick’s first major trip by motorcycle and it was on that trip he decided that he wanted to travel the world by bike. We decided to cut that chapter from the English version as we feel it does not add enough to the overall book to remain. Instead we will release it at a future date and in a format where the story can be enjoyed for everything it is rather than what it is not; which is part of Patrick’s first world trip by motorcycle.
It is not just in the restructuring of Fernweh that the German original and the translated version differ. The original plan was that I would translate Patrick’s book rather faithfully. As I began the work I felt there were scenes in the book where something was missing. There was so much more to the story but Patrick being Patrick, he had not been willing to share it. Or at least not write it out himself. However, he seems to have no such problems with me being the one to do the telling in writing. So as we travel on our present world trip (by motorcycle of course) I have spent many a morning over coffee or in the evening over beer, getting the fuller and more complete version from him. Other chapters I have changed very little, such as the chapter on the never ending adventure to get his Russian visa. I kept it in the third person and, other than an added line or two, it is translated rather faithfully.
In the end this story is still in Patrick’s voice, just with more details. I was tempted to hijack the story in South America and make it mine but decided against it. I had his complete approval and agreement in this. However, given that I have added quite a bit of detail to the book we went with me being a co-author as opposed to strictly a translator.
Finally, one of the best parts of translating and re-writing this book was reliving the ride through Mongolia, Russia and South America. It was also interesting to see how some things never change – like last minute preparations that lead to late starts, Russian visa woes and over-packing.