CELEBRATING TRANSLATION FROM ‘SMALLER’ LANGUAGES. IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTINA PRIBICHEVICH ZORIC
What does it mean to translate from a so-called ‘smaller’ language? What specific challenges do translators and publishers face when translating, editing, publishing and promoting literature in translation from ‘smaller’ languages, and how do they overcome them?
Experienced translator Christina Pribichevich Zoric answers our questions about her experience as a translator from Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (B/C/S). If you’re interested in the world of translation from ‘smaller’ languages, join us on Thursday 6th June for the Impossible Territory panel series as part of the UCL Festival of Culture.
Christina Pribichevich Zoric will be on the first panel Translating the War – Bosnian Writing through English and other languages at 18:00 with translator from Danish, Paul Russell Garrett, exploring how experiences of the conflict in former-Yugoslavia travel the world through other languages and translation. Join us there and come meet Bosnian authors Alen Mešković and Faruk Šehić!
The event is free but registration is required. Book your place here.
What was your journey to becoming a translator from B/C/S?
“I came to what was then Yugoslavia as an American graduate student, planning to stay a year. I stayed for over twenty. I picked up the language along the way, although it helped that my father was from the region so there were some words that I already knew. I started honing my skills as a translator when I got a job as a translator/broadcaster with the English Service of Radio Yugoslavia. Eventually I moved on to translating works of literature.”
How else have you used your language skills in your career?
“Language skills open all sorts of doors. I had studied French at the Sorbonne before coming to the former Yugoslavia, which was helpful when I came to head the Language Service at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, where the official languages were English and French and the working language was B/C/S.”
What have been the biggest challenges you faced as a translator from so-called 'smaller' languages?
“Enabling readers of the English translation to understand cultural and historical references that may be unfamiliar to them.”
How have you evolved as a translator from your first to your last translation?
“When I started translating I had to look for quotes, references and even terms wherever I could find them. The internet has made that so much easier, allowing me to spend more time on the translation itself.”
What is the current state of B/C/S literature in translation in the UK?
“Translated literature is still a poor relation in the English-speaking world. There was a spike of interest in B/C/S writers during and right after the wars in the former Yugoslavia, but that has tapered off yet there are still many classics and contemporary writers who more than deserve to be read in English.”
What suggestions would you give to emerging translators from B/C/S?
“Choose books to translate that you feel you can do justice to and read as much as you can in English to develop your style.”
Do you have a favourite book in translation from B/C/S? And/or is there a book not yet translated that you hope to see translated for the English-speaking public?
“I don't know about a favourite book, but I would love to see more of Borislav Pekic's work translated into English. He was an acute observer of the world, combining erudition with an almost British sense of humor.”
We kindly thank translator Christina Pribichevich Zoric for her contribution to our blog.
Christina Pribichevich Zoric has translated more than thirty novels and short-story collections from Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian and French. Her translations include the award-winning Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavić and the international best-seller Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipović. She has worked as a broadcaster for the English Service of Radio Yugoslavia in Belgrade and the BBC in London and was the Chief of Conference and Language Services for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.