A Long Way...
In June 2005 I arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. My first time in Africa, everything was different, loud, colorful, fascinating, strange! I wanted to live here for two years as an aid worker and rushed eagerly to the new tasks. What I quickly discovered was that English (after all, the second official language) was not really spoken. Common language was Kiswahili only, a quick, impulsive and happy language. So I threw myself into learning. Since I had learned earlier several languages with the help of the little prince as something familiar, I tried to purchase this book in that language. Research on the Internet showed me that the book existed in over 200 languages, Kiswahili, however, was not among them.
I did not want to accept this. It looked strange to me that in East Africa more than 100 million people speak this language that even is discussed to become the Pan-African continental language and they don't know the little prince. So I started to translate word for word, page after page of the book.
In the evening I often sat at the door with my guard Martini and we talked and he helped me find words that do not appear in the common dictionary. A language course in Arusha and the discussion with trained teachers left me with a first version of the book completed, I was about half a year in the country. Then I started again to read the book with a private teacher and good friend page by page, sentence by sentence, and to discuss with her. I wanted to know if my efforts were understandable.
Then I began to talk to publishers. Everyone was friendly, found it a great project, but everyone told me: This is all well and good, but we can not make money out of it! Additionally an inquiry to Gallimard (the publisher who holds the rights to the original book), showed that they would charge royalties if the book was printed in Tanzania. I ran from door to door until one day I stepped into the French Embassy in Dar es Salaam. They were enthusiastic about the idea! And willing to finance a first edition. A well known publisher, Mkuki na Nyota, was invited and I was full of hope ...but apart from a lot of discussion nothing happened!
Shortly before the end of my time in the country, I did not want to endure the eternal debate and delay no more. I ordered 1000 books printed at my own expense and distributed them through my work colleagues to schools, libraries and to friends throughout the country. The book has been read and I was happy! But that was only a drop of rain in the ocean!
We went back to Germany ... the publisher wanted to work on the book further. And now, two and a half years later, Walter Bgoya, the publishing director of Mkuki na Nyota has done himself a great work and further revision of the translation and left the book in a better Swahili and easier to understand, a first official edition is printed.
The Little Prince is starting his journey through Eastern Africa!