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Interview 1: Translating Karl May
How Durch die Wüste Became
The Shadow of the Padishah
• Interview 1: Introduction
• Interview 1: Part 1
• Interview 1: Part 2
• Trials and Tribulations

• Interview 2: Introduction
• Interview 2: Part 1
• Interview 2: Part 2
 Related Resources
• About Karl May
• Karl May Links
• Read Karl May

Welcome to our interviews with two translators of the German writer Karl May (1842-1912). English translations, especially modern translations, of Karl May's adventure and Western novels are quite rare. As we mentioned in a previous article, Karl May's books are very well known in German Europe and many other countries in translation. But in the English-language world, any mention of Karl May's name will usually produce a response of "Karl who?"

The two Karl May translators I interviewed recently are different people in many ways. How each man came to translate the works of Germany's bestselling author of all time is a tale of two translators. Although they have undertaken a common task, they have never met and they live on different continents. One is an American living in Austria, the other a German living in the U.S. One is in his 80's, the other in his late 40's. One was inspired more by outside persuasion, the other more by an inner drive. One used self-designed translation software as an aid to his work, the other did it all the old-fashioned way. One is self-published, the other found a university press publisher. But both men have one important thing in common: an appreciation—even a love—of Karl May's stories.

Padishah book Our first interview is with Michael Michalak, a native German now living in the U.S. For several years Mr. Michalak has been working on a translation of May's Orientzyklus—in particular elements from the first two stories/volumes in the German series, Durch die Wüste ("Through the Desert") and Durchs wilde Kurdistan ("Through Wild Kurdistan"). The first translated book, bearing the English title The Shadow of the Padishah - Part I - Through the Desert, was published in 2001. (You'll learn more about the “Padishah” title in the interview.)

Michael M. Michalak was born in Germany in 1953 and became interested in the works of Karl May after receiving his first Winnetou book from his father. Ever since then he has been a Karl May fan. As a boy, Michalak emigrated to Australia with his parents in 1965, but he has now resided in the United States for many years. Since English translations of Karl May's works are rare, often mangled, and usually abridged, Michalak decided to undertake a more accurate and complete translation of Karl May's Orientzyklus (“orient cycle or odyssey”)—something that has never been done before. A 1952 English translation of May's Durch die Wüste (In the Desert) published in the U.S. by the Ustad-Verlag/C.A. Willoughby (Bamberg and New York) was an unfortunate attempt marred by odd phrasing and a total lack of regard for the continuity of May's original story.

Michalak's translation work began in January 1999 and the initial book took a full year to complete. During the following year, an extensive editing effort was undertaken (with the help of his late wife, Elaine) to polish the translation and ready it for publishing. The Shadow of the Padishah - Part I - Through the Desert is the first and only unabridged translation of a Karl May work by a modern author. (David Koblick's Winnetou translation is modern but abridged for reasons you'll learn in his interview.)

On the next page we begin our interview with Michael Michalak about his Durch die Wüste translation.

N E X T > Interview 1: Part 1 | Part 2

Interview 2 - Introduction
An interview with Winnetou translator David Koblick.

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