Karina Carreras on translating Pavel Friedmann

Karina Carreras


on translating Pavel Friedmann


I translated this poem in a very minimalistic way because I wanted to emphasize the sadness and emptiness of the poem. The meaning of this poem is Pavel trying to find hope where he is. He finds hope when he sees this beautiful yellow butterfly but he sees it drift away, and he never sees it again. I wanted to preserve the spacing and alignments of the original because I feel like it was very important in the original, the emphasis of him not seeing a butterfly and then the indents on “the ghetto” added to the importance of not seeing such a hopeful creature in such a sad place. The word “ghettoized” is an uncomfortable term and not a very common term, and I thought it fit perfectly with the literal awkwardness of the German language and what the poem meant, but I wanted to make sure the readers understood the term stick outs by making the word a bit smaller than the rest.

about the author

Pavel Friedmann was a Jewish Czechslovakian poet who was famous for his poem “Der Schmetterling.” Very little is known about his early life. When he was twenty-one, he was transported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp located in Prague. This poem was found on a very thin piece of paper along with a lot of other drawings and writings from Jewish children at the camp. Pavel Friedmann was later transported to Auschwitz in 1944, where he died.

about the translator

My name is Karina Carreras, and I am a senior at the University of Iowa. This semester, I decided to take a translation course not thinking a lot of it, and I ended up falling in love with translation. I didn’t realize how captivating the art of translation was until I started working with pieces and workshopping them with my peers and professor. I wanted to submit this translation because it was so moving in German, and I think English readers should have the chance to read this as well.

photo by Quinn Gruber