Arnold J. Pomerans

Creative translator

Arnold J. Pomerans was one of Britain's finest translators. He put many foreign writers on the international map by the very quality of his translations into English, which led to their translation into other languages. Far from being a literal translator, he would frequently read a page of the original carefully, put the book down, and render the text into exquisite idiomatic English. He said that a translator's job was to recreate in the image of the original, and his versions were often held to have improved on their original text.

Arnold Julius Pomerans, translator: born Königsberg, Germany 27 April 1920; married 1956 Erica White (one son, and one son deceased); died Polstead, Suffolk 30 May 2005.

Arnold J. Pomerans was one of Britain's finest translators. He put many foreign writers on the international map by the very quality of his translations into English, which led to their translation into other languages. Far from being a literal translator, he would frequently read a page of the original carefully, put the book down, and render the text into exquisite idiomatic English. He said that a translator's job was to recreate in the image of the original, and his versions were often held to have improved on their original text.

Arno Pomerans was born in Germany in 1920 and spent his childhood in Berlin, in Memel and in Yugoslavia. In 1936 he left Europe with his family and went to South Africa, but in 1948, unable to tolerate the regime there, he settled in the UK. In 1956 he married Erica White in Hampstead, north London, became a full-time translator, and they moved the next year to Suffolk, finding an old cottage in Polstead.

He translated brilliantly from most European languages, but had a particular affinity with Dutch. With Erica, who worked as his editor, he would deliver an almost perfect package to the publisher, complete with useful annotation regarding people and places. Among the almost 200 he translated were Louis de Broglie, Jules Romain, Jan Huizinga, Werner Heisenberg, Anne Frank, Sigmund Freud, Jean Piaget, Hugo Claus, Vincent Van Gogh and George Grosz. He had a particular feel for the language of psychoanalysis and translated the work of many analysts in addition to Freud. Anna Freud said of him that he made the best renditions of her father's work.

An engaging figure, of puckish charm and wit, Pomerans was a notable presence for many years at the Frankfurt Book Fair and made several productive visits to the Translators' House in Amsterdam.

Mark Paterson

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