German writer Clemens Schittko was born in 1978 in East Berlin, where he studied music and philosophy for a while and has made a living as a window cleaner, a gardener and doing other odd jobs. For his literary output he was awarded the lauter niemand preis für politische lyrik 2010 and the Karin-Kramer-Preis für widerständige Literatur 2018. Schittko’s works have been published by a number of German presses and in various magazines and anthologies.
Schittko’s translation of William Shakespeare’s sonnets is a tongue-in-cheek conceptual piece of work, now published by Ralf Friel’s Moloko Plus press in a design by their friend Kai Pohl. From the flap text of this book we learn that the central theme of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (originally published in 1609 by Thomas Thorpe) is love and that no other book, apart from the bible, has been translated into German more often. Between 1836 and 1894 alone no fewer than twelve annotated translations appeared and since the 18th century some 300 translators have tried their hands at the sonnets. With this Moloko publication Schittko has added an unconventional translation to that list. Schittko’s translations from English to German were done with the help of an online translating machine instead by a translator of flesh and blood. Published unedited, they vary from clumsy, ridiculous, surprising to brilliant or downright stupid. Schittko explains: “I think that it is exactly the distorted or mistaken German language produced by the machine that generates poetry”. He’s absolutely right. This book’s a real treat.