Killed in 1915 in the Dolomites, a soldier haunts the dreams of a young German. An authentic testimony that seized Roger Wiltz, former colleague of the Daily. Who translated it?
Child, Udo Wieczorek (born in 1970) has terrible nightmares, living very realistic war scenes. As an adult, trying to find their origin in the Dolomites, he finds in the remains of a trench a letter written 82 years ago by a wounded soldier. With the help of the journalist Manfred Bomm, he identifies the soldier and proves that his dreams are based on a historical reality … An amazing investigation recently available in French, thanks to the work of Roger Wiltz, who participated in the first years of The Daily (2001 -2003).
How did you come across this book?
Roger Wiltz: By chance! I was walking in Germany and I entered a bookstore. There was this book, with this soldier on the cover. His eyes attracted me. And the summary has a bit destabilized: it was weird, and we could not know if it was a fiction or reality. It definitely convinced me. I also thought, in passing, that it would improve my German!
What did you think of that?
Already, we quickly discover that it is not a novel, because the author articulates it with dates and specific places, known. Reading over, I thought, “But she’s amazing this story! So, I read it again, to make sure of it. The effect persisted, and then, I wanted to translate it.
What did you like about this “curious” story?
The personality of the author, who follows his dreams, or rather his nightmares. Instead of fleeing them and taking sleeping pills, drugs, he decides to confront them, to go on an adventure to understand what has been going on for years. How brave! Let’s also greet his wife, Daniela, who always believed him, and did not take him for a mental patient …
So, you decide to translate it into French. How should we proceed? You turn to the editor and you say, “I have an idea …”
(He laughs) Yes, it’s a bit like that: I sent an email to the publisher (Gmeiner), who first replied: “No, thank you! Then I quickly looked for the address of the authors, I wrote them, just like to the editor, once again. There, it was unlocked, and I was given permission to translate the book, without being paid … And I also had, by my own means, find a publisher in France.
Was the exercise itself complicated?
Obviously, this is not a highly literary style, because we are here in a sort of investigation that accumulates the facts, details the meetings … But it’s still German, a language that does not have the same structure as the French. As a result, it requires, permanently, adaptations. I devoted myself to it thoroughly for four-five months. It took me: I took this story to heart. And in July 2016, I was finished.
Did you meet Udo Wieczorek and Manfred Bomm?
Yes, I met them in Sexten, in the very place of the story. They are very natural, normal, down to earth. Compared to this strange story, one might think they are “new age” or something like that, but not at all. We wandered around, chatted, drank beer and ate Tyrolean ravioli. In short, the classic …
Did they appreciate your approach?
They are delighted that the story is known because it is important to them. It is important because, according to them, it proves that there is something else beyond our material world, that it is not limited to our simple perceptions defined by our five senses. And that, we did not speak much about it: there was no preachi-preach. This reinforced me in the merits of their approach. They left me free to believe or not. But it’s a mystery that surpasses them too!
Personally, do you believe it?
I am a fairly pragmatic person, but, by my Catholic confession – which I practice from afar – I believe that there are other possibilities. In this sense, a professor friend explained to me that in quantum physics, we can see that two particles can have a separate “life”, but react to each other. Yes, our world is more complex than it looks … Yes, Udo dreamed of things that happened nearly a century before, and that led him to find this letter. It’s amazing, but it’s like that!