iUniverse’s Phyllis Rauch continues her engrossing account of her late husband, Georg Rauch, and their collaboration on Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army – recently picked up by Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan.
Though he was fluent in English and Spanish, Georg wrote in his mother tongue – German, a language composed of very long compound words and endless sentences with the main verb placed at the very end. I knew the translation would have to be true to Georg’s story, but more colloquial and appealing to English-speaking readers.
Early on, in the process of translating, I realized I also would have to discover or create Georg’s literary voice. Trained as a librarian, I rifled through my memory, recalling styles and books from Fitzgerald to James and Faulkner.
Hemingway isn’t my favorite author, but I found myself leaning in his direction, convinced that simplicity and clarity would make what had now become “our book” more powerful.
Unlikely Warrior is richly illustrated with original drawings by the author as well as photos of Georg in training and in Russia, as well as family portraits of his Jewish ancestors.
Macmillan is marketing the book to young adults, though the book will also be included in their adult catalog. I’ve read many Young Adult titles recently, and with a few exceptions (such as The Giver Quartet) found them dreary or hopeless. The main themes seemed to be fantasy, futurism, or death and divorce.
I’m hoping our readers, young and older, will be excited and inspired by a book that relates how a real teen survived multiple near-deaths, thanks to his practical accomplishments and sharp wit, good health and love of life. I think women will also relate to the strong relationship between Georg and his mother.
Though the translating was tough, I loved the entire publishing experience. I worked with a fine editor at iUniverse who afterward wrote me a letter praising our book. My amazing agent Emmanuelle never gave up and made it finally happen. Though my Macmillan editor, Wesley, first implied that the book was almost perfect, we thereupon went through it more than once with the proverbial fine-toothed comb. He is amazing, meticulous, fun and fair.
To aspiring authors
Georg and I wrote the book in 1984. Scores of B&B guests and friends read the manuscript, insisting it be published. I wrote a book proposal and even got an agent, but he was unsuccessful. Next we tried publishing the German version in Austria, but came up with zilch. A play based on the book, Funker Rauch, written by British playwright Michael Burrell, was premiered at the Fringe Festival in Edmonton, Canada in 1991 to rave reviews, and performed as a reading here at Lake Chapala a few years ago.
At the start of the new millennium many of my writer friends started to self-publish. When I finally decided to follow their lead in 2005, I chose iUniverse. Thereafter I sold perhaps close to 1,000 copies and had it translated into Spanish.
On November 2, 2014, the phone rang when I was lighting the candles for Georg and my mother on my Day of the Dead altar. For the first time I heard my agent’s voice saying, “Phyllis, I have some news.”
I answered, “It has to be good.” And it was.
If you have done your very best, and you believe in your book with all your heart, never ever give up.
Self-publishing felt a little like “giving in” at the time. Now I see it as an important investment toward achieving our ultimate goal.
iUniverse thanks Phyllis for such an evocative blog, showing us such a fine portrait of her husband as a man and a writer, and ending with a truly splendid story! If you are in her area, make sure to check out her B&B and Art Studio, Los Dos Mexico.